Unweaving ‘Untitled’

“What are your thoughts on Untitled, in general? the progression never alters yet Interpol’s signature layering of harmonies is present- I’m just curious as to how an experienced theorist views the song.”
– Kyle

This experienced theorist found herself momentarily stumped when thinking about Kyle’s question! Much like ‘Hands Away,’ ‘Untitled’ is a song that I had always listened to passively, not really actively thinking at any moment “what’s happening here?” So, when I did sit down with the song with that question in mind, I was surprised to find that the ideas I came up with weren’t as self-evident as I had anticipated.

– The first 40 seconds of ‘Untitled’ are played by Daniel alone—two melodic lines in counterpoint, which form the backdrop for the entire song. This was perhaps the most surprising revelation for me, as the texture of the song is so diverse. I never would have expected that the first few notes of the song are played continuously until the very end.

– The texture thickens and thins alternately around this guitar backdrop. As Kyle mentions, this is a technique that Interpol often use: beginning with a simple guitar lick, and then layering around that lick. Thus, in ‘Untitled,’ the guitar backdrop begins the song, at 0:40 the drums and bass enter, at 1:22 the voice enters, at 2:05 the voice leaves while new guitar lines are added in, at 2:47 the drums and all but one of the new guitar lines leave, and at 3:40 the bass leaves, so that the original guitar lick and the solo ‘moaning’ guitar line end the song.

– As for the progression of harmonies, in typical Interpol fashion, Daniel provides a lick whose melodic content influences the other musical lines that will eventually coexist with it during the song (this is something I noticed with the opening lick of NARC as well). He begins with C and E-flat, moving the C down to B-flat just before 0:03 so that E-flat and B-flat are played together until 0:05 when E-flat is moved down to D-flat, and then back to E-flat around 0:09. In other words, Daniel introduces the pitches C, B-flat, E-flat and D-flat in his guitar lick, which means that any other notes introduced in the song will most likely fit within a scale that contains these four notes. In terms of new notes (i.e., notes other than the four listed above) the bass introduces A-flat in 0:40, while the voice introduces G in 1:27 (the bass also introduces D-natural, but I hear this as what’s called a non-harmonic tone, or, a tone that lies outside of the predominant scale and that functions as an embellishment).

– So, my guess for the ‘key’ of this song is A-flat major—feel free to post any alternate hearings you might have here! My final conclusion of A-flat major as the key for this song, like the revelation of the continuous presence of the guitar backdrop mentioned above, also surprises me, as I’d always heard this song as having a more minor sound (in Western parlance sad, dark, etc.).

– Well, those are my general thoughts on ‘Untitled.’ I hope to be able to write something a little more nuanced and interpretive on this song in the future, using this as the basic groundwork.

Thanks for the question Kyle!

Much love from,
Meg

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~ by megwilhoite on March 16, 2008.

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