Follow up: Pioneer to the Falls

Recently Matt commented on my post “Minor Fall, Major Lift in Pioneer”, asking: “How can you decide that the section is in Dmaj and not the relative Bmin?”

The post was about my “favorite seconds” in “Pioneer to the Falls”, in which I stated that 3:23-3:50 of the song is in D major, while the rest of the song is in D minor. Matt’s question intrigued me, because there is definitely a strong emphasis on B minor in this part of the song: It begins on a B minor chord, and we land on B minor at a pretty strong metrical moment in the passage (when Paul sings “go”). And yet I still hear the passage as being in the key of D major. Why?

Part of it has to do with the lyrics, which are so hopeful and positive (because of course like most listeners in the Western hemisphere, I’ve grown up associating major keys with happiness and minor keys with sadness). There are two other cues in the music that support D major: In the third measure we hear an F# minor chord; you’re much more likely to hear F# major in the key of B minor—spelled F#-A#-C#, with the A# being the important “leading tone” to B.

The other reason has to do with timing: The first big “arrival” moment happens on “know” at the beginning of the second phrase; the bass walks us down from F# to E to D, the lowest note of the song (Carlos having tuned his low E string down a step). And directly following this big arrival, we go to a G major chord, which is a very strong chord in D major. To cap it all off, Paul dramatically lands on D on the word “alive” at the end of the section.

Well, those are my thoughts! Next up on the blog: A look at “Rest My Chemistry,” followed by a response to some comments emailed to me by Brian.



~ by megwilhoite on July 28, 2012.

2 Responses to “Follow up: Pioneer to the Falls”

  1. Thanks for your explanation. Love your work here!

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