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Richard Carpenter, Music Theory, and Me

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B_Flat_Blues

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After working out the beginning of the theme song to the children's show "Little Bill" on my son's toy piano I figured I should get a real keyboard and take some piano lessons.

Some distant memory triggered by my piano teacher showing me the "9 chord" made me remember The Carpenters, in particular a song called "Close to You".

I tried to remember its chord progression, but I was only 5 the last time I had heard it, in the car with my mom who was a big fan, and couldn't for the life of me get it right. I don't own a record player, but luckily someone who did made me an MP3, and recording in hand I sat down to figure it out.

It seemed to me pure genius; the "progression" seemed to just roam wherever it pleased, as a casual conversation might comfortably ramble, and I was totally baffled as to how anyone could have thought up something like that.

My piano teacher told me that that "progression" wasn't really a "progression" in the traditional sense because it wasn't "modal" but was "purely voice-led" and that that was very advanced music theory. She also challenged me to give it a try myself! I've been an eager student of music theory ever since.

She elaborated: the first "bridge" in "Close to You" builds up a resolution by shifting from voice-led chords to a modal progression, but the key of that progression is ambiguous until the final resolution in the second "bridge".

They say once you know the magician's secret the tricks don't seem so impressive, but in this case all I have to say is, "Wow!" "Close to You" is more impressive than ever.

Thanks, Mr. Carpenter! You're an inspiration!
 

DAN BOLTON

Well-Known Member
Richard Carpenter would be the first to point out that CLOSE TO YOU was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, but you're right on when you say that he's an inspiration... :wink:


Dan, wanting to get into a little music theory, himself...
 

whsoxfan

New Member
I'm new here - love this site. I found it by accident, but I've enjoyed reading all the posts. I've learned so much! I've been a Carpenters fan for 30 years plus! Love their music
 

B_Flat_Blues

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Thread Starter
Burt Bacharach and Hal David?

Err, oops ... how embarassing!

Using the awesome powers of the Internet I will now go find out who Burt Bacharach and Hal David were ... let me guess, I'm going to find out they were the two guys from the ad agency who also wrote that wedding song? Umm ... "We've Only Just Begun" which breaks it down hip-hop style during the bridge. Very cool. (Except I think in the 70's it would've been called "Funk" or maybe "R&B", not "Hip Hop").

That's what makes a truly great composition: you hear it a couple of times then all of a sudden it's like you're hearing prime numbers from outer space subtly hidden in the hiss of background noise and you ask yourself the question, "Where is that signal coming from?"
 

Murray

Well-Known Member
B_Flat_Blues said:
Using the awesome powers of the Internet I will now go find out who Burt Bacharach and Hal David were ... let me guess, I'm going to find out they were the two guys from the ad agency who also wrote that wedding song?
Nope, that was Paul Williams and Roger Nichols.

That's what makes a truly great composition: you hear it a couple of times then all of a sudden it's like you're hearing prime numbers from outer space subtly hidden in the hiss of background noise and you ask yourself the question, "Where is that signal coming from?"
????? Whatever it is you're smoking, can I have some? :D
 

B_Flat_Blues

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Thread Starter
I see that Hal David was a lyricist and that Bacharach was a composer ... I also surprisingly discovered I can't stand Bacharach's music. I'm sure it's very clever, I just don't like it.

Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, yes, found that out too ... they seem to both be composers as well as lyricists. I wonder how they divided up the responsibilities for their most famous of TV jingles?

"Prime numbers from outer space" is a science analogy: no known natural phenomena generate prime numbers; they're a sign of intelligent life. I was suggesting that finding music that sounds simple at first but is actually very clever is akin to unexpectedly finding intelligent life.

"What am I smoking?" A propitious question, inasmuch as I asked the same question (rhetorically) of the composer of "Close to You" when I heard the strange and to my mind ingenious way it was written.

The answer (I'm new at this, correct me if I get anything wrong):

C maj 9 -> B maj sus -> B maj -> B min -> G maj -> E min -> ...
 

DAN BOLTON

Well-Known Member
You must be a member of MENSA...an avid devotee of Marilyn Vos Savant...don't come down too hard on Bacharach's music, though...it's very lyrical and tricky to try to play, as you're finding out.

An interesting aside- the song CLOSE TO YOU was originally offered to Herb Alpert, but he didn't care for the line about sprinkling moondust or stars falling from the sky, depending upon which account you favor. Some think he saw the lyrics as a bad omen, others feel that he just didn't care for the way the lyrics sounded when he sang them. Apparently, there IS a recording somewhere of Herb singing CLOSE TO YOU...and THAT would really be a rare find that should find its' way onto a "rarities" disc, if Herb ever offers a box set... :confused:


Dan
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
For those who never heard of Bacharach's music, allow me to recomend purchasing an old Dionne Warwick album and hear the songs in their original interpretation. Through the years people like Melissa Manchester, Linda Rondstandt and Maureen McGovern have slowed down the tempo and resurrected them as strong ballads and there are many tribute projects that showacse these classic songs. Richard and Karen were of the greatest interpreters of David/Bacharach music.

Craig
 

B_Flat_Blues

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Thread Starter
Nah, Dan, I'm just a movie buff. Ever see "Contact" by Carl Sagan?

Err, back to Bacharach ... does he have any piano solo material to check out?
 

B_Flat_Blues

New Member
Thread Starter
Alas, it would appear I have strayed from the topic at hand ... questions relating to Burt Bacharach's music should I imagine be directed elsewhere on the Internet than a Carpenter's site.

Gotta find out more about Duke Ellington, too ... I know he's remembered as a composer, but I'm more interested in the way he played the piano. There's also a progression I heard Dream Theater do, I don't think I've ever heard anything quite like it. Maybe I should find a music site. None of this stuff is really on-topic anywhere else.

Err, if I ever find myself wanting to figure out a Carpenter's song actually written by Richard Carpenter I'll be back, otherwise, thanks to everyone I talked to here, and keep listening for that sound ...
 

Rudy

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Site Admin
I could recommend the Look Of Love 3-CD box set on Rhino for the best Bacharach introduction. Lots of Dionne Warwick, and plenty of others (from Perry Como to Elvis Costello) that really get to the core of what Bacharach/David was all about. I never realized how much he'd touched in his career. The one-disc sampler from the set is OK, but doesn't look very fulfilling. :wink: Harry has two Dionne Warwick compilations that seem to get most of the Bacharach tunes collected. (And I keep losing that @%$&# e-mail where he told me which two these were! :wink: )

Back in the 70's, my mother had bought a large book of solo piano Bacharach/David tunes, which her and I both used. The only place I can think of that might be a good place to start would be Sheet Music Plus (there's a search box on our home page here), or keep trolling eBay, since music books for many artists have come up.
 
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