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!)
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