The Lydian Mode in "Belle" (Beauty and the Beast), Part 2
Wow, is this fun!
In yesterday's blog post, I explored the use of the Lydian mode for little bursts of pizzazz in the otherwise major-mode opening of "Belle." As I explained in that post, all of the singing in the first two verses is in major. Lydian is used ONLY by the orchestra, either to add some space between lyrics or to underscore spoken dialogue.
ALL OF THIS CHANGES AT THE END OF VERSE 2.
Yes, Belle, this is going to be nerdy! And I can't wait to share it with you. ;-)
First things first: here's a video of the song and the structural charts of the first two verses from yesterday's post. Then we'll see how things are different after verse 2.
If you compare these charts for Verse 1 and Verse 2, you might notice that the first verse ends with a spoken dialogue, and the second verse doesn't.
Well, actually, the second verse DOES end with a spoken dialogue, but it comes after a lengthy verse extension that is ENTIRELY in Lydian.
Here's how that verse extension begins:
If you examine this passage closely, you'll notice two tell-tale signs that this isn't just in Lydian, but, like, really in Lydian:
After this, the verse extension continues with a spoken dialogue. As in the previous dialogue from Verse 1, we hear that playful Lydian melody in the cellos, as Belle talks shop with the bookstore owner.
HOWEVER, this time it's more complex (and the dialogue's much longer). As you can see in the sheet music below, this cello tune is played several times in D Lydian. Then, it's transposed up a minor third, to its chromatic mediant, F Lydian. After we hear it in F Lydian a few times, it then returns back down to D Lydian. These chromatic-mediant modulations mirror those in the Lydian singing just before this, where the music had modulated from G Lydian up to Bb Lydian.
Chromatic mediants, in case you don't know, often indicate some powerful emotional shift. So in the first passage, the energy of the group bursts suddenly higher with the shift from G Lydian to Bb Lydian, leading Belle to wail in misery: "There must be more than this provincial life!" Then, at the bookstore, as Belle begins talking about her favorite book, she gets emotionally carried away: with the shift from D Lydian to F Lydian, she begins to talk about why this is her favorite book, full of "far-off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise..."
All of this is followed by Verse 3, which mostly follows the structure of Verse 2, and then we get to Belle's big solo -- "Ooooooohhh, isn't this AMAZING?" -- which is, you guessed it, also in Lydian. And then we get Gaston's solo, which is in Mixolydian.
But we'll save that for another day. :-)
The Lydian Mode in "Belle" (Beauty and the Beast), Part 1
My dear fellow nerds!
I have a confession to make.
In yesterday's blog post, I promised that today's post would discuss the use of the Lydian mode in music from Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.
Welllll... the thing is... this music is SO fascinating, and SO complex, that I was only able to get to ONE song from Beauty and the Beast today!
And not only that...
I only got through a 3rd of that song!
So, without further ado, I present to you the first couple verses of "Belle," that amazing opening number from Beauty and the Beast. Tomorrow, I'll continue with the middle section, and hopefully the ending, as well.
"Belle" is in the key of D Major. Pretty simple, right? But the thing about modal harmony is that, although you could certainly have an entire song in the key of D Lydian, it's often used for brief splashes of color in an otherwise major or minor piece.
For example, consider the first few verses of "Belle." Whenever someone is singing, the music is in D major (except for the brief sequences that pass through C major and Bb major).
But in between the major-key singing are all these little bursts of Lydian, which I've highlighted in purple in the map above.
There's this spunky two-measure bit, which leaps about and emphasizes the tritone between scale degrees 1 (D) and 4 (G#):
... which reappears later, inverted and foreshortened, as a two-chord sighing figure in C Lydian (C-F#) and Bb Lydian (Bb-E):
These little bits of Lydian are like mini-transitions, or mini breaths of fresh air, or little bursts of color, within the much larger framework of D major.
And then there's this playful cello solo in the background music when Belle is having spoken conversations with various villagers, which highlights the #4 (G#) in D Lydian:
Give a listen to this song, while following along with my structural map, and see if you can hear these little bursts of Lydian. Doesn't it just make the listening experience so much richer and more delightful? That's the thing about music theory. It helps us notice details of the music that we never would have noticed before. And once we notice those details, it totally changes the whole listening experience.
Whew, ok, that's the intro and first two verses! Tomorrow, I'll continue with the third verse, Belle's solo, and perhaps even (gasp) Gaston's solo in (gasp) D MIXOLYDIAN! (How earthy!)
To pass the time during my cancer treatment, I did a live stream on Twitter about the history of Disney music. Why not, right? :-)
Pop quiz! What's Alan Menken's favorite interval?
Answer: I don't know, but 3rds show up ALL over his Disney soundtracks!
He uses them in ostinatos, sequences, free-flowing melodies, emphatic gestures... have a listen to the examples in this video, and then read on to learn more!
Ostinatos establish a mood and anticipate motion.
Menken uses 3rds-based ostinatos to establish moods and anticipate motion. Ostinatos, in case you don't know, are musical patterns that repeat themselves over and over and over. For this reason, they both ground us in a particular sound-world and build up suspense over when, and how, the music will change.
In Newsies, the syncopations and brass orchestration of a 3rds-based ostinato set the movie in jazzy NYC, in a bustling orphanage where the newsies long for adventure.
In The Little Mermaid, a 3rds-based ostinato is played smoothly and evenly by sweet violins, creating an aura of peace and satisfaction as Ariel lies down to sleep. What will tomorrow bring? We'll find out tomorrow; in the meantime, she basks in her happiness.
In Aladdin, the end-of-bar accents, abrupt rests, and flurries of sixteenth notes in this 3rds-based ostinato create anxiety. Trapped by the guards, unable to escape, he prepares himself to jump for his life, colorfully depicted by a falling glissando.
Here are those same examples in sheet music format:
Sequences create movement and anticipate arrival.
Menken uses 3rds-based sequences to create motion and anticipate arrival. Sequences are like ostinatos, but each time the pattern repeats it's a little bit higher or lower than the time before... like climbing on rungs in a ladder.
In Hunchback of Notre Dame, for example, the villainous Frollo sings a descending sequence of 3rds as his soul descends into Hell.
In The Little Mermaid, by contrast, Ariel sings an ascending sequence of 3rds as the sea witch, Ursula, rips her voice up and out of her throat.
Isn't Disney just lovely for children? Here are those same examples in sheet music format:
Free-flowing melodies are more flexible than ostinatos and sequences.
The challenge with ostinatos and sequences is that they're structurally very rigid. But that's precisely where they get their power: they're incredible at establishing moods and carrying the music in clear directions.
But Alan Menken also often uses thirds to create his own, free-flowing melodies, such as the following gruesome duet from Hunchback and snazzy, finger-snapping bridge from Newsies.
In the Hunchback duo, Frollo and Quasimodo sing short phrases based almost exclusively on thirds. Thirds are useful in duets, because they are very consonant, and they form the most basic building blocks of tonal chords. For these reasons, they're relatively easy to harmonize, which is a load off the shoulders when trying to blend two simultaneous melodies.
This snazzy bit from Newsies uses open thirds, omitting the middle note of each interval. Leaping around from syncopated note to syncopated note, this use of open thirds creates a feeling of lightness, joy, and happy-go-luckiness:
Of course, the happy-go-luckiness of these open thirds can be snuffed in a puff, when used for a rigid, choppy, ostinato such as that in Randy Newman's song "Friends on the Other Side" from Disney's The Princess and the Frog.
Good stuff. Here's the sheet music:
Emphatic gestures add "punch and pizzazz" (quoth the Genie...)
A lot of folks think that music is just about long, flowing melodies and longer, nerdier chord progressions. But that's missing the trees for the forest. Just as hand gestures and facial gestures add extra meaning to vocal speech, so, too, do itty-bitty musical gestures contribute to the flavor and meaning of a song.
Alan Menken is a MASTER of musical gestures, and one of these days I'll write about the multitude of juicy, delectable instrumental gestures in his background music for Aladdin. It's part of what makes the Aladdin soundtrack so expressive and engaging.
But for now, let's have a listen and look at a few 3rds-based gestures in his vocal melodies.
The choruses to "I See The Light" (Tangled) and "Go the Distance" (Hercules) are loud and exciting and triumphant and heroic... but if you want to know why that is, you have to look at the first three notes. Like a musical fist pump, each of these choruses begins with a sweeping gesture from scale degree 6 up to scale degree 1. They don't just break out into song; they leap into song.
In "Friend Like Me" (Aladdin), the Genie doesn't just sing; he laughs, he make funny sounds, he throws around little exclamations... and all these "extra" details are performed via charming musical gestures. Here are just a couple of them, which are based on the interval of a 3rd:
And here's the sheet music:
Putting it all together: "The Mob Song" from Beauty and the Beast
Ready to see something awesome? "The Mob Song" from Beauty and the Beast combines 3rds-based ostinatos, sequences, free-flowing melodies, and rhetorical gestures, all in a single verse!
- It begins with an emphatic gesture (a rising minor 3rd from scale degree 1 to 3), which immediately sets a dark and hurried tone.
- This gesture is then turned into an ostinato that wavers between two minor 3rds, one between scale degrees 1-3 and the other between scale degrees 2-4.
- The entire first phrase (emphatic gestures + ostinato) is then repeated a step higher, initiating a sequence.
- Then the same 3rds-based emphatic gesture is used as the basis for a free-flowing melody.
- The verse concludes with an ascending sequence based, again, on that same 3rds-based emphatic gesture.
Putting it all together again: "Arabian Nights" from Aladdin
The opening song from "Aladdin" also combines 3rds-based ostinatos, sequences, free-flowing melodies, and rhetorical gestures. My analysis below only covers the first half of the song, but I should warn you that the second half is also heavily based on 3rds as well. My gosh, does Alan Menken LOVE to use 3rds, or what?!
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Samantha Zerin has a PhD in historical musicology from New York University, and has taught music theory at NYU, Brown University, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She is also a composer and poet, and teaches private students. To learn more about Dr. Zerin and her work, you can visit her main website, www.CreativeShuli.com