Music Fix: Part III. Four chords and one term-chord.


Part IPart II

Seven years ago, an Australian comedy group, the Axis of Awesome, made an interesting discovery. In their performance, they show how 40 years of pop/rock music can be boiled down to a succession of 4 basic chords.


This may be one of the winning recipes of pop music: employ a basic and repetitive scheme in order to create an easy-listening atmosphere.

The history and diversity of chords in music can also be a lot deeper and more complex. This brings us to one very special chord. The Tristan chord is a good example of how terminology and music have some aspects in common, because this chord not only has a unique name, but also a very extensive Wikipedia entry. Richard Wagner sure left his personal mark on music, not necessarily because he “invented” this chord (a lot of musicologists found evidence of this chord being used before the time of Wagner). This chord became famous because of what Wagner did with it. It is truly fascinating how Sir Antonio Pappano, the music director of the Royal Opera House, digs into the concept behind this one-of-a-kind musical term.


There is still a lot of interesting work that can be done to document how concepts can be expressed in a musical way. Every kind of music (ranging from program music to film music and beyond) tells a story. At the beginning it may be difficult to decrypt the complex mix of rhythm, melody and harmony. After having listened to more and more pieces, links and patterns may appear which show how different techniques can be employed to create tension, joy, abyssal depths, or wide open spaces. Indeed, the list of possibilities is so big that a glossary could not include the vastness of human imagination.


Written by Amaury Neumann

Study visitor at TermCoord