Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SMB3 Music: You’ve Found the Princess


NB: All my analysis of SMB3 is from the NES version of the game, not the SNES Mario All-Stars remake.  There are very significant differences between the two, which may be the subject of future posts.

Now this object has a lot of notes in it but it is designed to give an echo effect.  If you take away the composed echo, the object looks more like:


This is a non-looping object that goes right into the credit music when it is over.

Those who are familiar with the early Mario series will recognize the first phrase of this tune.  This was the “You’ve Found the Princess” object from the original SMB.  It was originally scored in three parts with a solid bass line, and looped the four bars over and over again.  This object is much more developed, removing the bass line for a very simple rendition, almost anti-climatic to the ending of the game after facing so many challenges. 

Harmonically the opening is rather predictable: I – ii – V – I.

The object gets interesting after the opening phrases.


The E:iv in the second measure of this example is very interesting in that it can also be heard as a bII of E or even a I6 in F.  The removal of the bass line allowed for some amazing compositional flexibility, tricking our ears in to hearing different harmonies, all the while the music is really an amazing display of counterpoint:


The “mode” of the counterpoint changes on the interval of an octave or sixth, preceded by either a leap of a fourth/fifth or a stepwise motion.  While that statement described pretty much the entire history of tonal music, it is fascinating to see this at work here, in a video game object, at with such interesting key relationships.

The object’s key is C Major, with two bars in E major and two bars in F minor.  I – III – iv – I.

The I moves to III via a LP transformation (for you neo-Riemannians).  This transformation actually happens in the music. Though it is disguised as an anticipation, this is the moment of transformation:


III moves to iv via a sequence.  A typical modulation via a pivot chord and secondary dominant “brings us back to do” as they say.

Take a listen to the object now and see what you think:


Humingway said...

Nice! This is a really nice tune. I always thought it sounded like it should be the national anthem of the Mushroom Kingdom, probably because the chromatic inflections carry a tinge of archaism or “high style.” The Mario 2 end music has a little bit of that too, with a conspicuous Alberti bass (though the harmonies are pretty contemporary). I wonder how widespread that kind of stylistic elevation is in ending tunes in games?

As for the analysis itself, I have only one tiny point of disagreement: E never sounds like ^1 to me, but rather ^5. I hear the “E major” section as a brief tonicization of A minor, vi in the home key.

flutistjason said...

Thanks for your thoughts! I like my interpretation becuase it allows for a nice visual of the sequence from E to F, and the LP transformation makes it smooth. Going straight to E to emphasize Am when we are going straigt to F afterwards seems hard to reconcile. I'll give it some more thought though!

Anonymous said...

Fun Fact!

As you mentioned, the beginning of this tune is used in SMB. However, in the Famicom Disc System version of SMB2 the extended melody is included too (with a modulation in there too, which leads to a nice ending statement).


I find it pretty neat that Kondo brought it back for SMB3.