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Path: Queen Songs - Forum - Song Analysis: Procession inspired by Purcell?Bookmark and Share

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PD: Procession inspired by Purcell?16 Jun 2009 05:47

Purcell - Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary - March, Z.860

The Wikipedia article on Henry Purcell says that Brian May's Procession was inspired by Henry Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary".
I checked this interesting theory, and I think it's correct.

Let's see the points of similarity:
- ostinato drum pattern throughout the "song" which is played solo in the intro.
- The layered arrangement can be divided to distinct harmony blocks
- Between some harmony blocks the key is changing
- Purcell's piece is twice as long, but repeats, so the net length is roughly equal
- occassional switch to parallel chord

the differences
- May's ostinato rhythm is shorter, faster and more simple
- there are no triplets in Purcell's piece
- Purcell's piece can be transcribed as a chord progression with minimal dissonant content (one diminished chord)  and no additional notes bridging the chords.
- Procession combines two groups of block harmonies (left and rigth channel) with frequent resolved dissonances and a bass line sometimes played solo between the harmony blocks.
- Procession has no "home"-key

Purcell's March is in c-minor but the opening chord is C Major working as a Piquardy third opening for my ears.
Another possibility is the choice of  f-minor key.

The chord progression transcribed phrase by phrase:

c/C (f):
| C Fm C |
| I iv I |

| Cm Ab Fm G |
| I  VI iv V |

A parallel chord switch on the dominant chord (G to g) modulates to the neighbour key (a popular example is Abba's "Honey Honey" - in a Major key tough)

|  Gm Adim/C D Gm |
C: v... 
g: i iidim   V i  |
|         Eb: iii |

The phrase closing Gm chord is pivoting back to Eb, the relative key of the homekey.

|  Eb Ab Bb Eb |
Eb:I  IV V  I  |
         c: III|

The closing phrase repeats the strong 1-4-5-1 progression in the homekey:

c:
| Cm Fm G Cm |
| i  iv V i  |

 



Post was edited on 16 Jun 2009 05:56
1.Sebastian 16 Jun 2009 19:34

We're sort of in the same page, since lately I'd been drawing similarities between Procession and Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. But before I'll reflect on your points:

> The Wikipedia article on Henry Purcell says that Brian May's Procession was inspired by Henry Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary".

While that could be a possibility, the article's a bit biased. From a stylistic POV, the way they use 'obviously' is a classic example of a weasel word.

> - ostinato drum pattern throughout the "song" which is played solo in the intro.

Yes but it's true for many processions.

> - The layered arrangement can be divided to distinct harmony blocks
> - Between some harmony blocks the key is changing
>- occassional switch to parallel chord

Ditto

> - Purcell's piece can be transcribed as a chord progression with minimal dissonant content (one diminished chord)  and no additional notes bridging the chords.

That's why I think there's a bit of an American influence on May's Procession.

> - Procession has no "home"-key

Well... yes and no

 

Now, we could draw three possibilities: Procession vs Speak to Me, Procession vs Fanfare, Procession vs Funeral...

 

PROCESSION & FUNERAL OF QUEEN MARY

- At the time of 'Queen II', May was exploring ancient English music (see how White Queen has some Victorian themes both in lyrics and arrangements), and especially the way one could modernise it or tribute it with electric or electronic instruments.

- 'A Clockwork Orange' (released on 13th January 1972) was incredibly popular at the time. Being an English film and featuring a synth-version of the Funeral in question, it's very possible that it'd caught May's attention and interest.

- Brian's way to score the guitar fanfare is not dissimilar to the way one orchestrates for Baroque and/or Renaissance slide trumpets, especially in the beginning of the second bit.

 

PROCESSION & SPEAK TO ME

- 'Dark Side', released on 17th March 1973, had a big impact on contemporary rock music, and Pink Floyd are one of the few bands Deacon, Taylor and May all mentioned in interviews or Soapbox. As for Freddie, his driver said he liked their music and often listened to it in the car.

- Procession takes some quotes from Father to Son: just try singing the first guitar line with the lyrics 'joyful the sound', or compare the pyramid at the end with the vocals ('father to father to father to son'). Such idea could've been influenced by the way 'Dark Side' recycles progressions, melodies, themes, etc.

- The ostinato bass-drum can be read as heart-beat pulse, as in DSotM, as opposed to the more percussive feel of both Funeral and Fanfare.

 

PROCESSION & FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN

- Styx had covered Copland's piece in their debut album (released in September 1971, probably getting to the UK some months later), which could've revived its interest by fellow rock musicians, including May.

- Fanfare... is scored for horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, timpani, bass-drum and gong. May's bass-line is very tuba-like, and according to the mastertape there were timpani and cymbals recorded for Procession. Who knows what they did...

- Tilson Thomas' extraordinary analysis on Fanfare comments on how the melody and homophony is the sort of thing one would normally compose for fiddles or guitars, but of course it acquires a different dimension when played by brass. IMO, Procession is the opposite case: something one would normally score for tuba and slide trumpets (i.e. brass), but played on guitars.

2.FriedChicken 17 Jun 2009 14:28

I think the comparison of Procession and Aaron Copland is a bit farfetched in my opinion. I'd love to hear more about the Purcell comparison though. It's not a big secret that Queen (Brian and Freddie) were heavily influenced by Classical music, and had a classical approach to working on their song. Especially if you compare it to other rock musicians.

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