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Author David Luebbert
Posted 12/9/02; 1:46:19 AM
Topic Lover Man
Msg# 3196 (in response to 3192)
Prev/Next 3195/3197
Reads 6329

 I think it would be instructive to go through the harmony of this tune bar by bar, in order to totally explain everything that is going on. Iíve wanted to do this more regularly on SongTrellis. Fortunately, I think I understand everything that is going on here.

 Thereís a real common harmonic skeleton embedded within the A sections of the ìLover Manî changes.  The skeleton sequence is G7 to C7 to F7 to BbMA7. In this chain of chords each of the 7 chords in the sequence would have a suspenseful sound that would lead naturally into the next 7 chord. The sequence would come to a momentary resting place when the BbMA7 is reached.



When you listen to the example of the skeleton progression, you hear that the subsequence comes to a real satisfying conclusion when the BbMA7 chord is reached in the fourth bar of the example. Ramirez, the composer, alters the harmonic rhythm of the skeleton, by making the first two chords G7 and C7 last for two bars each expanding the skeleton into the six bar sequence G7| G7| C7 | C7|  F7 | BbMA7. 



The two bar extension of the overall sequence from four bars to six bars changes the meaning of the BbMA7 quite a bit. Your mind most likely will understand that the BbMA7 is some kind of resting place in the overall sequence but will be disturbed because we somehow reached it too early. It somehow feels like someone has spoken half of a sentence and then left off the concluding phrase.

Why? In the Western European musical tradition, we've developed an aversion to doing things an odd number of times. Evenness is the ruling principle for most musical structures. Composers will do things with odd parity occasionally, to emphasize an event in harmony or melody. When they do this, they very frequently will balance out events in pairs later in the piece, as if to let you know that you that this rupture in your expectations is not going to reoccur.

In harmonic sequences, we are very used to mentally dividing them up into two bar sequences and hearing those as a single unit. We're also used to hearing two of those two-bar units as a larger four bar entity, and also to hear two succesive four-bar units as a single eight-bar long harmonic entity. In the case of Lover Man we mentally refuse to hear the BbMA7 in bar six as the end of a six bar utterance. We expect more to be said, to somehow extend the sequence to an eight-bar length.

If we wanted to compose a near relative of "Lover Man" whose harmony had a different meaning, we could take the last two bars of the six bar skeleton, and repeat them again, creating the eight bar sequence: G7| G7| C7 | C7|  F7 | BbMA7 | F7 | BbMA7. We hear that as a complete utterance because a relatively restful chord finally occurs at the end of an eight bar phrase.


If we wanted to create a twelve bar sequence that we are likely to hear as a complete utterance, we could double the six bar sequence to produce: G7| G7| C7 | C7|  F7 | BbMA7 | G7| G7| C7 | C7|  F7 | BbMA7. In this case, we are willing to accept the presence of six-bar long subunits because we repeated exactly the same routine twice, satisfying our mental longing to sense even parity in musical productions.

 If the composer had used the expanded six bar skeleton without alteration, he would have created a suspenseful harmonic effect in bar 6 at the cost of making the harmony in bars 1 through 4 more static by doubling the durations of the G7 and C7 chords. Instead, he elaborates the skeleton harmony in bars one through four to obscure the static harmonic motion in this part of the sequence. 

Here's how he did it. You will notice that G7 is the ending chord of  bars one and two, C7 is the ending chord of bars three and four. To create more harmonic interest, the composer doubled the harmonic tempo of the first four bars by placing in the first half of each bar a mi7 chord whose root is a perfect fifth above the 7th chord that originally resided in the bar of the skeleton sequence. So each G7 in the skeleton is transformed into Dmi7-G7 and each C7 is transformed into Gmi7-C7.



In bars one and two, the sequence Dmi7-G7 is repeated twice. This is a ii-V sequence in the key of C major, so you can improvise using the notes of the C Major scale throughout these bars.

In bars three and four, the sequence Gmi7-C7 is repeated in each bar. This is a ii-V sequence in the key of F major, so you can improvise using the notes of the F Major scale throughout these bars. Notice that the  F Major scale flats the seventh pitch of the C Major scale which is lowered to Bb.

In bars five and six, the sequence is F7-BbMA7 which is a V-I sequence in the key of Bb Major. Throughout  these bars you can improvise ideas that  use the notes of the Bb Major scale. The Bb Major scale flats the seventh pitch of F Major, which is E, and lowers it to Eb.

A curious thing happens in bar seven of the A sections. This chord in the first halves of these bars is Db7 which is apparently a great distance away from Bb MA7. If you started at Db7 and constructed a chain of  7th chords to move step by step to BbMA7 like we did in the first six bars, we would derive the sequence Db7, Gb7, B7, E7, A7, D7, G7, C7, F7, BbMA7. This chain covers æ of the entire 12 chord chain of 7th chords whose roots are built on the cycle of descending perfect fifths. Such long 7th chord chains are almost never used in popular songs. The wild thing that happens instead in Lover Man is that in the second half of bar 7 we travel immediately to C7, skipping six chords from the cycle of fifths.

If you compare the sound of Db7-C7, two seventh chord descending by a half step, with the sound of G7-C7, two seventh chords descending by a perfect 5th, youíll discover that the two sequences have a great resemblance to one another. 


It has been well known for a number of decades that in a sequence of dominant 7th chords you can substitute for any of the 7th chords a 7th chord whose root is an augmented 4th distance away from the original root and still preserve most of the musical effect of the original sequence. 

So the sequence that starts in bar 7, Db7-C7, is a disguised way to jump back part of the way in the cycle that was used in bars 1 through 6. Itís equivalent to jumping back to G7 in that sequence and then cycling forward.

From the pattern that was used in bars 1 through 6, we would expect the progression to cycle forward again till the MA7 chord is reached when the Bb root is reached.  The surprising development that occurs in bar 8, is that FMA7 is used which causes the cycle to conclude one step earlier than before.   Weíve discovered that FMA7 is the intended goal even though an attempt has been made to fake us out into believing momentarily that BbMA7 was the goal. This new usage makes us change our opinion about the meaning of the BbMA7 in bar 6. In the new context we have to call that chord a IVMA7 that resolves back to FMA7, the IMA7 of the entire sequence.

Itís perhaps appropriate that we wander about getting confused about the final resting point in this chord progression, since the lament in the lyric of this tune is ìLover Man, oh where can you beî.


In the second half of bar 8 during the first repeat, A7 is used as a turnaround  to lead back to sequence of  the 1st bar of the A section again. This works because the root of A7 is a perfect 5th above the root of the Dmi7 chord that begins the A section.


The first four bars of the  B section, use a a ii-V-I sequence in the key of G, Ami7-D7-GMA7, meaning that the notes of the G major scale can be used for improvising over these four bars.


Bars 5 through 7 use a ii-V-I in the key of F, Gmi7-C7-FMA7.  Bar 8 needs to somehow cycle back to begin the last repeat of the A section. The problem here is that we apparently reached our goal chord FMA7, in bar 7 of the B section, rather than in bar 8 as we did in the A sections of the tune. It ends up that the composer wanted to use A7 as the last chord of the B section to lead back to the Dmi7, analogous to how  he ended the first repeat of A. In this case he uses Emi7(b5), the half diminished chord built on the seventh scale step of the F major scale. This leads directly into the following A7. Using the subsequence Emi7(b5)-A7-Dmi7 to restart the last A section, outlines a minor ii-V-I in the key of Dmi7 to give us a brief and temporary minor feeling during this turnaround.


I think this explains everything that happens harmonically during the tune. I will concoct MIDI sequences to illustrate the harmonic subsequences discussed above, later today after I get some sleep.

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