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Ian Chippett
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Lady of a Day
« : 17.08.04 at 15:19 »

Somewhere else on the forum, Gerry Smith requested this song at the forthcoming *od. This reminded me that he'd already discussed the use of the whole-tone scale in this song a couple of yonks ago. I'd like to know why exactly Pete decided to experiment with this scale in this song which I have to say has never been one of my favourites though I've always been fascinated by it from a technical point of view. I think my problem is more with the lyrics ("the screens of memory" bit which Pete seems to be having trouble setting). Is it because the words are a bit unwieldy or because of the limits of the musical experiment?
 
Ian C
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Re: Lady of a Day
« Reply #1: 17.08.04 at 16:12 »

Well, Ian, as far as I can remember, I didn't set out in a premeditated way to apply any particular music scheme to it.    
 
To explain it as simply as possible (which for non-players may still not be simple enough), a "whole-tone" means two semi-tones, i.e. two adjacent notes on a piano, e.g. C to D, or D to E, or E to G flat (or F# -- same note, different name depending on context). Continuing that sequence takes you from G flat to A flat, from A flat to B flat, and from B flat back to C.   And that makes up a whole-tone scale -- seven notes to the octave as opposed to eight in the 'normal' scale.  
 
The melody of Lady Of A Day doesn't use a whole-tone scale, but the roots of the chords are based on the notes of a whole-tone scale.   So the chords used are F, G, A, B natural (the grammar gets tricky around this point), D flat, and E flat.   What that means most crucially is that neither the B flat nor C chord is available -- no big deal, but perhaps a bit unusual and a bit of a challenge.  
 
I suspect the idea of seeing if I could make something of the idea probably occurred somewhere around "it's only right that everything went wrong", where neither Bb nore C7 seemed somehow right, I don't know.   The whole whole-tone thing has am open, unresolved kind of feel to it which seemed right for the song.   If you play a whole-tone scale on the piano, it simply carries on and on and doesn't 'land' naturally on any particular note in the way that a 'normal' (diatonic) scale unquestionably does.
 
The difficulty you perceive in the middle eight is not, I think, anything to do with the lyric being hard to set, or the chord-plan making things difficult;  much more to do with the fact that I hadn't thought it through well enough and figured out how to perform it.  It was very, very new in the studio, and could have done with a bit more 'working-in'.
 
Does any of that make any sense?
 
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Re: Lady of a Day
« Reply #2: 17.08.04 at 16:48 »

Pete wrote:
 
<<Does any of that make any sense? >>
 
Yes, perfect sense. Back when I first heard this song, I was (I now see) a bit disturbed by the whole-tone scale thing without actually knowing what it was. When I tried to work it out on the guitar, I failed lamentably because I couldn't see that it was possible to jump from F to B, etc etc. This kind of modulation is quite rare in most popular music and may explain the difficulty people have with Pete's music (in almost every other way quite classical in terms of structure). On a slightly different level, it took me quite a few listens to get into "Calyx" (sung by Robert Wyatt on the first Hatfield and the North album) because of the unusual modulations whereas it's probably one of the most beautiful tunes I've ever heard. My dear lady wife, far more conventional than I in her musical tastes, hated it the first time she heard it and has remained constant in her hatred ever since. If you want to be rich and famous, it seems wise to stick to C, F and G...
 
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Gerry Smith
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Re: Lady of a Day
« Reply #3: 17.08.04 at 17:01 »

Ian wrote: Yes, perfect sense. Back when I first heard this song, I was (I now see) a bit disturbed by the whole-tone scale thing without actually knowing what it was. When I tried to work it out on the guitar, I failed lamentably because I couldn't see that it was possible to jump from F to B,
 
..which is of course our old friend the tritone, which the whole tone scale accommodates well.
 
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Ian Chippett
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Re: Lady of a Day
« Reply #4: 17.08.04 at 21:42 »

Gerry wrote:
 
<<which is of course our old friend the tritone, which the whole tone scale accommodates well. >>
 
As you say, Gerry. We find the tritone all through Pete's music from the early days till now. On the other hand (and probably quite rightly from a song-writing point of view) Pete very rarely uses the chords I've come across in the works of some of my other favourite musicians. He sometimes throws in the odd -ma7 or -dim7 but rarely if ever a Gma9/C or Eb7+11/6 or even Fma7b5/G (I have written proof that these chords exist though God knows how you're supposed to play them.) The rule seems to be that you can play any note except the root.
 
Ian C
 
Studiously avoiding elitism in Pantin (93) France.
 
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Ian Chippett
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Re: Lady of a Day
« Reply #5: 20.08.04 at 18:14 »

Pete wrote re "Lady of a Day":
 
<<It was very, very new in the studio, and could have done with a bit more 'working-in'. >>
 
It seems from the diary of Pete's recording sessions that he went into the studio with just the songs that eventually appear on the album. But on what grounds did he consider leaving out a song that had perhaps been worked-in rather than a new one? There must be quite a few that could have been used.
 
Ian C
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