Morecambe Rock

What it is about

Rock made in Morecambe (as opposed to Blackpool Rock).

How it was written

The piece features a power trio using various techniques to develop two sections of music.

The first section is 24 bars long and loosely based on a blues format. The second section lasts 8 bars.

Both sections use the minor pentatonic scale to create harmony. The chords include the usual I IV and V, and also the flat third, bIII, and flat seven, bVII.

The first section is in the key of E and the second is in F#, a distant relative of E.

Contrasting harmonies

Morecambe Rock reharmonisation (0:16)
Morecambe Rock reharmonisation
Morecambe Rock reharmonisation

The score shows the original harmony that starts the piece, followed by its reharmonised variant, which is used later on.

There are a couple of interesting points to make about the music. First, the key changes from E to A, you can hear the change, yet a key change is not shown, although it is optional, because the original and the variant both use the same scale. Second, this scale is the E minor pentatonic with an additional note, C#, to make EGABC#D. This 6-note scale has no known name and very little is written about hexatonic harmony (very little = nothing). Finally, chord notation is, as ever, approximate. The V7c in the variant, for example, contains the notes GC#E, and is notated as a third inversion A7 chord with a missing root, although it might as easily be a C#dim, or a weird sort of G chord.

Play this backwards

Morecambe Rock retrograde (0:08)
Morecambe Rock retrograde
Morecambe Rock retrograde

The score shows 2 bars from the original second section proceeding E-B-B-F#6, followed by its backwards version, F#6-B-Badd4-E.

The second section is developed using the techniques of offset, substitution and regression (or retrogression, as it is more commonly known). Of all these techniques, regression is the most radical. It always changes the rhythm, it morphs the melody and harmony into unexpected shapes, and the result is music with a significantly different feel. Although it is common in serialism and twelve-tone classical music, it seems not to feature much in pop music, which is surprising, because it is not difficult to do.

The retrograde version was written by, first, reversing the rhythm. This might sound a bit strange - who wants to hear drums played backwards? - but it is done by reversing the placement of the accents in the harmony. In the original sample, the overdriven guitar, shown in the treble clef, plays a composite (3+3+2)/8 rhythm in which the last 2 eighth beats are silent. The retrograde version reverses the accents and becomes (2+3+3)/8 with 2 silent eighth beats at the start.

Then the harmony was reversed. This is simply a matter of reversing the order of the chords in a progression. It is such a simple idea, but what a difference it makes to the sound. Some liberties are taken, such as changing the note values and modifying one of the chords.

Finally, the fretless bass guitar, shown in the bass clef, started off playing a reverse melody. It sounded OK but was spiced up by substituting notes, changing their values, and offsetting some of them, and eventually became a completely different beast.

The percussion plays the same rhythm throughout. The only difference is that the retrograde variant switches from a room drumset to a power drumset with an added hihat on the offbeats.

Composite composition

Morecambe Rock composite (0:04)
Morecambe Rock composite
Morecambe Rock composite

The sample shows a 2 bar extract from the coda using different composite rhythms.

The melody and harmony voices sing a syncopated composite rhythm (4+1+1+rest+1)/8 spanning a single bar. The guitar and bass play a composite (3+3+3+3+2+2)/8 rhythm spanning two bars. The drumset includes crash cymbals to keep the tempo whilst the bass and snare drums really mix it up.

Composite rhythms are used throughout the piece to achieve a subtle form of contrast. Or not so subtle, and more in your face, as in the coda.

Tech spec

Title: Morecambe Rock

Key: E

Tempo: 120bpm

Length: 3' 06"

Track 1: brass melody

Track 2: synth brass 1 harmony

Track 3: overdrive guitar

Track 4: fretless bass

Track 5: drumset

Genre: pop, rock