What is Harmony Space?
Guide to practical use
The Music Computing Lab
Sultans of Swing Dire Straits
• The harmonic structure begins with a typical downward modal motion from the Aeolian centre. This lends the beginning a somewhat rootless, somewhat sad feel.
• Given the Aeolean style of motion, it is perhaps a little surprising that on hitting the fourth chord, a dominant shape is used instead of the expected minor shape. This seems to indicate a potential turn into more goal-oriented, purposeful tonal (albeit minor) territory.
• Indeed, we drop down from there in the tonal as opposed to modal direction back down onto the Aeolian centre (or is it the minor centre?) to repeat the same four chords.
• The contrast between the modal direction of motion followed by the dominant chord shape and short tonal movement may suggest a turning into slightly more optimistic territory.
• But on the second time around, rather than falling to the minor centre, we press on to the relative major centre and then move in a confident tonal direction as follows I V IV. The song sounds more confident here.
• Perhaps surprisingly, instead of falling back to major i, the song pauses for a while at the minor tonal centre. Compared with the confident major territory, this sounds somewhat muted and uncertain, but interestingly other.
• Now in a wonderfully economical move, the song reveals that without moving our position at all, the role of the position has changed back finally into the aoelian centre . This is revealed by a distinctive repeated aeolian ending movement IV VII - VI VII - VII I, with various aeolian movement flourishes.
Clearly the melody and arrangement could be altered to shade these harmonic mood changes in different ways.
But the harmonic framework is nonetheless a minature masterpiece
– diffident, depressed