Spread chords are common in orchestral film music, especially in the string sections.
Basically, a spread chord is a root-position chord, but with the third above the fifth:
Here are some examples in the official piano transcription of "All is Found" from Frozen 2. You can also find them in "Into the Unknown" and "Lost in the Woods," too. :-)
p.s. If you'd like to support my blog, I invite you to buy me a "cup of tea" over at http://Ko-Fi.com/DisneyMusicTheory. I'm currently raising money to buy more songbooks (Frozen, Moana, Brave). This will help me help you find even more useful ways of using Disney music to teach music theory! ❤️
Frozen 2 came out last week, and the soundtrack is SOOOOOOOOOOO good!
I live-tweeted my reactions to *almost* the entire soundtrack earlier this week; I'll post it here when I've gotten through the whole thing, but meanwhile you can view the Twitter thread by clicking here.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Let's do an actual analysis of the opening song, shall we? ?
(Disclaimer: I transcribed the notes by ear, so there may be some inaccuracies. I was a little unsure of the 3rd-4th measures in the second system, but everything else seems pretty clear.)
So, what really excited me the most when I first heard "All is Found" is its folksy, fantasy-esque sound.
But what makes it sound so folksy?
Here are some thoughts, just based on the opening verse:
What do you think? What'd I miss? What else do you like about this song, aside from its folksiness?
IF YOU HAVEN'T HEARD IT YET, you should! Here's the entire soundtrack on Spotify:
Who's seen Frozen 2???
Not me (yet!)
But the soundtrack is already up on Spotify! So I'm going to listen to the whole soundtrack now, literally for the first time in forever, and share my thoughts in real time.
Before listening to the music...
OK, first of all, this soundtrack is HUGE. 46 tracks! Some of those appear to be covers, but still. So excited to experience this.
Just glancing at the track list, I'm excited to see that Olaf (Josh Gad) gets several songs! And seriously, there's a continuation of "Reindeer(s) are better than people"?? ?
1. "All is Found"
WOAH - what a great opening! I love the folsky, fantasy-esque feel of it. It's modal (Mixolydian? Love those bVII-I cadences). There are magical chromatic mediants. It's a breathy female voice, accompanied by...what instrument is that? Some kind of dulcimer?
I also love how the piece builds up tension -- starting with a very thin orchestration, then get thicker with a wash of strings, and then even thicker... so powerful.
Listening to the first track again. The melody comes out in bursts... it's not one long melody. It's a little phrase, (breathe), a little phrase, (breathe), a little phrase... part of what makes it so folksy. (Oh, and gotta give a shout out to those magical string triplets!)
2. "Some Things Never Change"
Starting off with an ensemble number this time! (Doesn't the Frozen 1 broadway show do the same? But not the movie...) Cool to hear our favorite characters returning, one by one, before the whole chorus joins in.
The obvious thing is to write about the energy (1-7-6-5 bass ostinato, power chords, etc). BUT, what really excites me is when Elsa enters and ALL THAT GOES AWAY! Weird tonal shift, string tremolos, very soft... just like her solo in "First Time in Forever." Marks her as uncanny!
3. "Into the Unknown"
I've only just listened to the opening, but... so cool. The "destiny topic" that Jesse Kinne talked about at this year's American Musicology Society conference is so salient: the solo female voice over a hollow piano accompaniment...
Also, the piano's odd meter reminds me of "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman..." Is it just me?
Kristen Anderson-Lopez might be new favorite Disney composer... and Frozen 2 might be my new favorite Disney soundtrack. My goodness, "Into the Unknown" is soo dramatic... don't even know where to begin... But on a different note, I hear so many references to the Frozen score in "Into the Unknown" - background melodic stuff, lyrical references, even topical stuff (the destiny voice like in the troll scenes from Frozen 1, the galloping rhythms in what feels like a chase?)
4. "When I Am Older"
Only just listened to the opening measures, but now I'm SO CURIOUS to see the movie! It starts off so Olaf-y, with that Broadway style... and then the sudden slashes... perfect! OK, now to listen to the rest of the song...
So, obviously, it's fun that Olaf's character is musically connected with punchy Broadway cabaret type stuff. Also cool, though, how this old musical style is mixed with digital sound effects -- echos, alien-like bleeps, heavy reverb.... so creative.
5. "Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People."
What a cool idea to have a reprise of a Frozen 1 song in Frozen 2... but it's immediately different, b/c it starts off a cappella. And then when Sven comes in with his advice, the shimmering strings make him sound like the voice of G-d...!
6. "Lost in the Woods"
OK, again, just listened to the first few measures, but..... ELECTRIC GUITAR??? Whaaaaaaaat.
It's nice how Kristoff harmonizes himself in "Lost in the Woods" (did he record each track separately, or is this just a digital effect? Either way...) (Note: later found out that Bobby Lopez asked Kristoff to sing 18 different tracks to layer over each other!)
... also, why are we back in the 80s suddenly? ? I'm really impressed by the Anderson-Lopezes' stylistic versatility in this score. Film composers generally have to know how to write in many different styles, and it's just done so well in Frozen 2.
7. "Show Yourself"
There are some cool orchestral things in here... sudden silences in the chorus, string echos, sci-fi-esque aug 7ths.... what was Christoph Beck's role in these songs? Did Anderson-Lopez write all the background texture in these songs, or did Beck? Or someone else? (Edit: later found out it was Dave Metzger who did most of the orchestration, not Beck.)
I'm curious about the Queen Iduna vocalise (3-2-3-1), which we hear not only sung by Evan Rachel Wood in this track but also weaved into the piano accompaniment. Is it a leit-motif throughout the underscoring? Again, haven't seen the movie yet. But it's just screaming LEIT-MOTIF!
8. "Next Right Thing"
So empty... such loss & solitude... there's the almost non-existent texture in the beginning with long drawn-out chord tones... background cello solos... her sobs... harp ostinati... dear G-d, does this movie have a tragic ending? Better keep listening....
OK, I've listened to all the vocal tracks. So interesting how Elsa and Kristoff barely sang in Frozen 1, but they've got most of the singing in Frozen 2. And Anna - Anna only sings at the very beginning and the very end? And how enigmatic her final solo is - no resolution?
Taking a break for breakfast. Then I'll skip over all the cover versions and head right to the instrumental tracks. This is fun!
17-24. Karaoke Tracks
OK, listening again, now to the instrumental versions of each song. Karaoke?
When I've taught Disney music in the past, students get so caught up in lyrics that they can't listen to the actual music. These would be great for analysis, eliminating the distraction of lyrics!
To be sure, lyrics are important, too. But as a music theorist, it really irks me when people ONLY talk about lyrics, as if lyrics are the be all and end all of Disney music. So it's cool to have just the background tracks to listen to.
"Into the Unknown" without the vocal track is cool. You can really hear how stagnant the opening ostinato is, until suddenly the shimmering strings come in with new harmonies. Again, lyrics are important but can be a distraction - here I can listen distraction-free.
"When I am Older" - instrumental track. The big silences in the middle, when Olaf would be singing a cappella, are so hilarious.
Interesting that there doesn't seem to be a villain song. Is there no villain? Or does the villain just not sing (like in so many of the pre-Menken Disney films)?
Nice plagal cadence (aka "amen cadence") at the end of the last vocal track. (Disclaimer: there's a V-I cadence after the IV-I cadence. But still. Nice touch.)
OK, on to the underscoring by Cristoph Beck. ("Underscoring" is all the background music you hear in a movie when characters are NOT singing. In my opinion, it's sometimes the best / most interesting music in a Disney musical, but NOBODY TALKS ABOUT IT!)
0:00 this sounds SO familiar, very wintery... like Inside Out? Home Alone?
0:07 oh cool, it's the same theme as the opening of Frozen 1
0:10 uh oh, what's this menacing low brass interruption?
0:13 oh, phew, the theme is back
0:17 whaaaaaat (low brass)
0:32 - this is flying music... wonder what the animation is like here.
0:50 - DO YOU WANNA BUILD A SNOWMAN!!!!!
A huldra is a Norwegian forest/water nymph. So is this gonna be like the trolls from Frozen 1?
- nice opening with a folk flute/pipe, emphasizing open fourths and fifths. - oh, nice repetition a step higher!
- sudden entrance of piano timbre is so magical.
So many magical things going on in the orchestration ...
- the use of a folk instrument over a string drone
- the sudden addition of a piano timbre
- the chimes
- the quasi-tremolo 7-7-1-1-7-7-5-5 ostinato in the strings
- chromatic mediant harmonies
- harp-like broken chords
Nice pentatonic melody on a folk pipe. But then, the orchestration changes from folk instruments to orchestral instruments. Sure, orchestration usually changes to make repetitions less repetitive, but... there MUST be something driving this folk --> orchestra shift?
WOAH -- so amazing. I'm used to hearing these swirling arpeggios played by strings at moments of panic/tension/running. It's a cliché in film music. But to hear them on piano (and brass!) is so unusual - it's like my ears are exploding!
The clock tower chimes are a nice touch. I wonder if there's actually a bell tower in the movie, or if this is purely for timbral effect?
32. "The Mist"
The timbral palette is incredible. Forget about listening for a melody. This track is all about the interactions among so many diverse timbres.
Woah, what wind! The string whips, the woodwind/brass double-tonguing, the woodblocks, the sudden appearance of a deep, deep brass theme.
WAIT WAIT WAIT
IT'S THE FEAR MOTIF FROM FROZEN 1!!!!!!
So there are definitely leit motifs from the first film in the second film. OMG
The Frozen 2 soundtrack has a much more overall sci-fi / fantasy vibe to it than the Frozen 1 soundtrack. These slowly-unfolding aug7 chords in the second half of "Wind" are so trippy...
34. "Iduna's Scarf"
Oh hey, it's the opening vocals come back, this time a cappella in a 2-part canon. I wonder why? Will have to see the movie. The opening of this track (0:15-0:40) reminds me of Giacchino's Inside Out score. And the aug7ths after that are so alien-y...
So much cool stuff being done with high-register piano timbres in this soundtrack. I love it.
35. "Fire and Ice"
Another timbre-based track. AND...... it's the fear leit-motif from Frozen 1 again!
What about the rest of the soundtrack?????
Honestly, I was so exhausted from analyzing these couple dozen tracks that I couldn't get through the rest! But I'll certainly be writing more about this soundtrack / film in the coming weeks!
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