During my final term of college I took a rhythm and meter music analysis class. The class explored the use of rhythm and meter in various genres—classical, jazz, and even rock. It was taught by UO’s own recent music theory doctoral graduate Wing Lau. I really enjoyed the class and had a lot of fun dissecting one of Tony’s compositions off his new album. As soon as I received the prompt for the final I knew I wanted to analyze one of Tony’s tunes because it hasn’t been done before. Tony helped me pick one of his most interesting songs in terms of rhythm and meter. The beginning of the paper is definitely full-on music nerd, so if you’re interested in a lighter read, skip to the in final few paragraphs after the horizontal line to understand the main point of the analysis, complete with a composer interview with Tony. Enjoy!
Metric Analysis of Reconciliation by Tony Glausi
Tony Glausi released his debut album Identity Crisis in December of 2015. In his words, “Identity Crisis is about soul-searching, change, perseverance, and resolution.” Tony is a programmatic composer, and the entire Identity Crisis album is like a story, giving listeners a peak inside his life’s happenings, struggles, thoughts and passions. As his wife, I have an unfair advantage of understanding Tony on a deeper level than most, so I can vouch for the deep emotional place each of Tony’s songs arises from. Track nine of ten on the album, titled Reconciliation, has received countless praise for its exciting metrical features. I have chosen this song to further analyze and dissect the attention-grabbing metrical components, which offer more interest than exciting drum patterns and horn melodies: these sections paint a bigger picture giving us a glimpse of life through Tony’s eyes. Through the consonant and dissonant sections, changing meter, and metric modulation in Reconciliation, we are given a look inside the life of Tony Glausi and his portrayal of the constant ebb and flow in human relationships.
Reconciliation begins with a very distinct bass line and a 4/4 drum groove with emphasis on 2 and 4. After 4 bars, the piano part joins the rest of the group and repeats the groove for 4 more bars. These 2 bars (repeated 4 times) are metrically consonant and set up a distinct hypermeter of 2 (when ¼ note = 1) because of the phenomenal accents on beats 1 and 3. Consonance is quickly turned dissonant, however, when the horns enter in mm. 3, things get complicated. Not only does the meter change to 6/4, the horns (trumpet and tenor saxophone), piano and bass, and drums are all playing in 3 separate time-feels that somehow mesh metrically together. My metrical analysis of mm. 3 is displayed in figure 1. This analysis is a rendition of Stefan Caris Love’s style of analysis. I realize my analysis is different than Love’s because my dots represent different materials, but this style of analysis was better at portraying the harmonic layers in a more precise way than any other method we discussed in class. The three layers (horns, piano/bass, drums) are displayed above with lines representing the tactus suggested by each layer. The
black dots represent accents suggested by the dictation and the instrumentalists’ performance. The gray dots represent less explicit accents. The solid arrow arcs represent the definite phrasing and the dotted arcs represent the suggested phrasing—note that my metric analysis has more to do with the way the music sounds rather than what is dictated on the score. As I stated, the introductory 2-bar phrase sets up a consonant 4/4 meter. The drums keep this feel, including emphasis on beats 2 and 4 as indicated in figure 1. The horns also keep this feel despite the change in meter from 4/4 to 6/4; however, interpreting the horns in 6/4 is also valid, but based on the phenomenal accents and the interaction with the drum feel, the horns keep a relatively stable 4/4 pattern. The layer that throws everything off is the piano and bass layer that modulates to a 3/8 pattern (see figure 1). This layer displaces the consonant 4/4 pattern introduced in the beginning of the tune and this is where we first encounter metric dissonance.
The pattern established in mm. 3-4 repeats itself exactly in mm. 5-6, and starts to repeat itself in mm. 7, but a hemiola pattern in mm. 8 quickly disrupts the repetition. Although mm. 3-7 are dissonant, we get used to the pattern by the end of bar 7, so we are completely thrown off by the disruption in mm. 8. Subliminal dissonance is music that is established by one interpretive layer that is conflicted by another layer because of context and/or notation. In this case the metrical notation is 3/4, which conflicts with the syncopated pattern and sounds different and more consonant that what we see on the score, resulting in a form of subliminal dissonance.Mm. 8 is a small bump in the road, however, compared to the continuous hemiola repetition that occurs in mm. 12-14. Between mm. 9-11 (see figure 2 and 3), the music returns to a more regular 4/4 pattern that is similar to what we see in the very beginning of the tune. Metric consonance is established as the same pattern is repeated 3 times. Mm. 12 brings back the hemiola pattern already introduced in mm. 8, but this time it is extended and leads to a metric modulation in the solo section. A metric modulation, as defined by the Oxford Companion to Music, is “[a] technique… by which changing time signatures effect a transition from one meter to another, just as a series of chords can effect a harmonic modulation from one key to another.” The dotted 8th note becomes the quarter note when the 4/4 meter is established in the solo section (see figure 4). The music sounds consonant as the meter changes from 3/4 to 4/4. All of the instruments, including the rhythm section, are joined together in a few bars of complete consonance, which leads into a full release of tension in the solo section.
The solo section begins with a trumpet solo by Tony. Although the solo is an open solo (without written chord changes), Tony plays in distinct 4-bar phrases for 16 bars with one beginning accented phrase in the very last phrase. The next solo, a tenor saxophone solo by Josh Hettwer, is also in 4-bar phrases. Despite the open solo improvisation, both musicians create an interesting and musical solo not only harmonically, but also metrically in their use of phrasing. The rhythm section keeps a steady 4/4 feel and responds to the harmonic material presented by the two soloists.
When the first 16-bar solo section is completed, the band repeats the head of the tune in typical jazz fashion; however, because of the metric modulation, this time the music is faster. The tenor saxophone solo is then performed, followed by another repetition of the head. Because the head is faster, the metric modulation into the drum solo is faster, leading to an even faster solo section for the 16-bar drum solo. Finally, the head of the tune is repeated for the final time at the quickest tempo yet. The tune ends with the entire band wailing on the same metric pattern.
Now that the groundwork of the analysis of Reconciliation has been established, we are ready to move onto the metrical features of the tune that portray the bigger picture– reconciliation and the mending of relationships. Reconciliation begins with metric consonance and a cool rhythm section groove. Symbolically, this metric consonance is similar to two friends getting along well, having fun, and supporting each other. When the horns enter in mm. 3, the entire band is in sharp metric dissonance with each other. This is when the friends start to enter into rough waters. Perhaps someone’s feelings were hurt. The two friends begin to tear apart. A quick glitch in mm. 8 disrupts the dissonance with a short measure of metric consonance, followed by slightly more consonance in mm. 9-11. This is when the two friends start to come back to each other; maybe they miss what they used to have. They might question why they ever “broke up” their friendship in the first place. The head of the tune ends with the entire band in metric unison leading to the release of tension into the solo section. The two friends finally reunite and feel relieved as the stress of the un-friendship is released and repaired. Because of the metric modulation, each solo is followed by a repetition of the head at a faster tempo than before. But the friendship is still on rocky waters as the two try and find a way to move on and create a friendship like they used to have. They realize that their relationship will always have to change and evolve in order for the relationship to stay intact.
Tony was not necessarily thinking about including these certain dissonances in his tune while he was composing; he was simply composing music from a deep inside himself. The end result is a beautiful portrayal of reconciliation with metrical analogies to the tension and release ubiquitous to relationships.
I was able to sit down with Tony and ask him a few questions about the creation of Reconciliation. I asked him to describe his composition process. In Tony’s words, “I started writing Reconciliation in California during spring break of 2015. I was sitting at the piano in the house we were staying at surrounded by my family. We were celebrating the life of my Grandma who had just passed away.” Already we can see that Tony’s composition process for the tune began from an emotional, rather dark place. He was not sitting down to write a tune about reconciliation; he wanted to say something that he could not express in words. Tony continues, “As I was fooling around on the piano late that night, I just kind of found the key of B flat while wandering… I came up with the first shape, which became the bass line that starts the tune. I then went up diatonically from that. It all came down to working with a shape.” Tony explained that his composition process is different with every tune, but it always starts with one idea—a bass line in this case—that he tweaks and expands until a piece is written. He notated Reconciliation in a way that is not only pleasing to the musicians, but also to the overall feel of the tune. Tony explained, “I started fooling with bass line in 2, but when I started to write the melody on top, I realized it didn’t swing as well in 2 as it did in 6. It’s much more swingin’ and feels more groovy in 3.” Tony also described his process with the metric modulation: “As I started to get further with that dotted 8th note thing, I kept hearing a metric modulation. I kept hearing it go faster. So, I thought, well I’ll have the solo section be at a higher tempo. It all happened organically. I just got to the point with the tune where I felt there was nothing more to say in those first 14 bars before a solo hit.” Reconciliation and the entire collection of compositions by Tony Glausi come from a place of deep introspection. His music is not written because he wants a funk tune or a samba tune in his repertoire; he composes his emotions, which makes for a very interesting analysis of what he naturally writes.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Tony’s composition process is his explanation of the naming of his tunes. “I called it reconciliation because one of the themes of my Grandma’s funeral was that and it sort of inevitably snuck into the rhythmic influence of the piece. The theme comes from what I was going through at the time.” Tony described that his music always comes from a very deep place inside of himself, so when he goes to name a tune he looks back at what was going on in his life at the time. He also mentioned his titling process on I Can’t Seem to Get Enough of You from his album Identity Crisis. “When I title something, it’s always retrospectively. I ask myself: What was going in my life? What was I going through? Where did this music come from? For example, the ballad I wrote—I Can’t Seem to Get Enough of You—was written when I was feeling very in love. I never title a piece until after the fact. I always compose from a deep emotional place, from pure inspiration, and then I look back.”
Reconciliation was born out of a period of deep contemplation about relationships and the music, with its many dissonant rhythms and interesting melodies, portrays exactly what Tony felt during the time. As much as we can pick apart and analyze the metric dissonances and label the metric modulations and subliminal dissonances, we are still left with the puzzling idea that not one metric figure or dissonance was intended to mean anything. Tony wrote what he felt. There isn’t a label for what a piece of music can feel like to the soul. From an analytical point of view, it is fascinating to consider the true inspiration behind Tony’s music. Perhaps the beautifully organic place from which Reconciliation was born is the reason why the tune is one of the most popular on the album.