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Math equations help analyse why 'blues progression' is so famous in music

Washington, Sun, 31 May 2009 ANI

Washington, May 31 (ANI): Dalhousie math professor Jason Brown has once again applied mathematical principles to music to determine what make the blues "the blues".


The professor, whose groundbreaking research has already deconstructed the opening chord to The Beatles' A Hard Days Night, has now made an attempt at analyzing the blues progression, which is said to be the "most famous chord progression in modern music".


Publishing an article titled 'Deducing the Blues' in the journal CMS Notes, He says that the significance of this progression is singularly important to the genesis of rock 'n' roll.


Dr. Brown points out that numerous classic rock songs owe their structure and their universal appeal to this progression.


He looks at a common blues chord progression that links them all together.


According to him, the harmonic sequence is "perfect" and compares the experience of listening to the progression to a roller coaster.


"The blues chord progression has been used in other genres, such as country music and jazz, perhaps indeed precisely for the thrill it can add to the harmonic underpinning of the songs. The research points towards how you might have the pace of any given chord progression ebb and flow to create and release tension along the harmonic path," he notes.


Dr. Brown's "roller coaster" concept uses the notion of the excitement one might feel on the amusement park ride: up and down, peak to valley and to peak again.


He applies the idea of tension and release to music, constructing a model that uses twelve bars following a sequence that assigns the most "exciting" chords to key places in the sequence, with the biggest "climb" at the beginning of the end of the song.


As to whether or not the same formula can be applied to other kinds of music, Dr. Brown says that the blues lends itself to this kind of mathematical modeling in a way other musical genres do not.


"Country music has no one fixed chord sequence that permeates its tunes, and jazz has even a greater variety of chord progressions for its songs. It is the fixation of blues on essentially one famous chord progression that makes it amenable to mathematical study," Dr. Brown points out.


"While there are undoubtedly some great blues solos that defy explanation, mathematical principles can explain why we are so moved by blues - why it is indeed so external, so right," he adds.


Dr. Brown plans to continue his musical/math collective journey.


"I continue to seek a further understanding of the process of writing music, and the connections between mathematics and the aesthetics of music. The border where the creative, emotional and analytical aspects of great songs meet is one that I want to continue to explore," he says. (ANI)


Read More: Dalhousie

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