Favourite seconds: Not Even Lydian

Here’s a “my favourite seconds” post from friendinmypants (Nov 19, 2007):

“not even jail: the triumphant outro as if a conflict has found resolution.”

This was an interesting “favourite seconds,” analytically speaking. friendinmypants hears conflict in “Not Even Jail,” and also hears that conflict resolved triumphantly in the outro. Listening to the song again, I could relate; there’s a lot of tension and urgency throughout the song that seems to be released at the end. So, when I sat down to figure out “Not Even Jail” on my keyboard, I was expecting to discover perhaps conflicting keys, or crunchy harmonies that smooth out and simplify in the outro. But the conflict I found was actually much subtler than either of these options. The conflict is between two different versions of the C scale: C major, and what is commonly known as C “Lydian.”

C major contains the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C, while C Lydian contains C-D-E-F-sharp-G-A-B-C. Thus, the fourth note in C Lydian is a half-step higher than in C major (the theme song from “The Simpsons” is a famous tune that uses a Lydian scale). What’s clear is that “Not Even Jail” is undeniably in “C”—that is, all of the melodies and harmonies seem magnetized to that one note. However, by using F-natural in some sections of the song and F-sharp in others, Interpol create an unsettled feeling.

By alternating between what, to Western ears, is the very “natural” sounding major scale and the much less common and less “natural” sounding Lydian scale, Interpol manage to get a lot of musical tension out of very little material. The outro, as friendinmypants says, resolves this tension by settling the song firmly into C major. (See the bottom of this post for precisely where F-natural and F-sharp are used throughout the song.)

Obviously, the type of scale being used is only part of the conflict/resolution story in “Not Even Jail,” as the texture and sound effects, for example, also help to create these feelings.

That’s all for now. See you in April!

“Not Even Jail” (originally posted in Peregrinating ‘Perverts’, Cycling through ‘Jail’)
0:00-0:34 intro (no F’s)
00:34-1:08 Verse 1 (F-naturalàC major)
1:09-1:16 interlude (F-sharpàC Lydian)
1:17-1:47 pre-Chorus (F-natural)
1:48-2:25 Chorus (F-sharp)
2:25-2:27 intro (no F’s)
2:48-3:22 Verse 2 (no F’s)
3:22-3:29 interlude (F-sharp)
3:30-4:00 pre-Chorus (F-natural)
4:01-4:34 Chorus (F-sharp)
4:35-4:48 outro 1st part (no F’s)
4:48-5:47 outro 2nd part (F-natural)


~ by megwilhoite on March 31, 2009.

2 Responses to “Favourite seconds: Not Even Lydian”

  1. Nice analysis. The f sharp does bring a nice sense of leaping forward especially on the ascending line of I guess you would call pre chorus.

    I think the resolution you talk about at the end where they are firmly in c is cemented with the chord change to the dominant. Then the ear knows where it is and the ambivalence is gone.

    Have you done a study of length of love? One of my favs and cool use of the minor 3rd

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: