My transcription of “The Undoing”

Tumblr user desifee sent me a message about “The Undoing” a few days ago, so I decided to transcribe it—it’s one of my favorite songs off the self-titled album and I fell in love with it all over again while doing the transcription. I did this in a fairly short amount of time, so please let me know if you see any typos!

undoing img

Harmonic analysis:

Section 1, 0:00-1:09 and 1:40-2:48: ||: B major/E major/G# minor/E major (each chord played for 4 measures) :||

Section 2, 1:10-1:39 and 2:49-3:17: ||: B major – D# minor/F# major 7 – F# major/E# major/D# minor – F# major/F# major 7/F# major/F# major :||

Coda, 3:18-the end: Same chord progression as Section 2, repeated almost 8 times (8th repeat is faded out just after the beginning of the progression; my transcription stops at the end of the 7th repeat).

Some thoughts:

Section 1 is nice and expansive, the “harmonic rhythm” (i.e., the rate at which the chords change) is super slow, each chord playing for four measures each, and playing a very non-disruptive I-IV-vi-IV chord progression (I hear this section in B major). The texture for me creates a feeling of grandeur, like well-ordered palace gardens, with the synths and the drums adding more volume in the repeat of the chord progression.

Section 2 is much more complex, harmonically speaking the first time it appears, and also texturally speaking the second time it appears. The harmonic rhythm speeds up. Also, it starts out in B major, but with addition of the E# chord, we end up swinging around to F# major (the closely-related dominant of B major). The second time Section 2 appears (2:49)  the vocal tracks begin to stack up: the Spanish lyrics, the “oh”s and the “please” lyrics. We hear a foreshadowing of the “please” lyrics at 1:25 during the first Section 2, but he really starts pleading in earnest during the second Section 2 and the Coda.

The texture becomes even more dense in the Coda, and the vocals add two new short phrases (“all night long” and “I would wait”). The relatively calm expansiveness of Section 1 has become a complex interweaving of several different (and, in the lyrics, increasingly desperate) lines by the time the song fades out.

Also fun to note, there is no electric bass in this song, just a synthesized double bass!


~ by megwilhoite on January 20, 2014.

6 Responses to “My transcription of “The Undoing””

  1. How can someone as smart as you are read my blog?

  2. Hi im interesed in “Roland” and Stella was a diver. Could you explain these ones?

  3. Sort of! I’m an editor for Grove Music Online, which is a massive music dictionary/encyclopedia (subscription only unfortunately but most universities subscribe to it). So, occasionally my music theory degree comes in handy!

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