We got an interesting assignment (from a previous client), requesting an arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner, “aria”-style, after Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, for voice, string quartet and piano. The opening bars of the famous aria have an unusual harmonic scheme, pivoting between the tonic, and a melodic minor construction built on the lowered sixth. Berklee students will recognize this as an altered dominant, with the minor ninth in the bass. Another way to describe it might be as a “flat sixth minor major seventh.” It could also be described as the first inversion of a half-diminished plagal cadence, and it’s also the third inversion of a dominant with a raised 11th on the flatted second (a tritone substitute of the dominant). The distinctive character of this sound is defined by the choice of bass note.
I know, that’s a lot of jargon. Theory buffs might appreciate it (or more likely choose to argue about it) – theory buffs are an odd lot. (I’m one of them.)
Given this intro, I thought it would be interesting to apply that interesting harmonic substitution for the dominant, wherever it occurs in the tune. Having done that, we opened the Finale midi in ProTools, assigned instruments, edited, mixed and mastered, then produced this little video in Adobe Premiere featuring iPhone images and video clips from our own most patriotic experiences from the past year. We added section bass for the video version of the score.