Happy November! In my last post (this will be two posts in one week) I talked about planing chords and there's just too much to talk about there so we're diving right back in.
Today I'd like to talk about the difference between different types of vertical movement and how planing amplifies that musically. Obviously we're speaking in figuratively since music can't really move physically. The nature of how we perceive music though does allow for some metaphor. The two basic terms used are horizontal and vertical, with the former meaning the music's journey from one end to the other and the latter being the peaks and valleys during said journey. Those terms can also describe concepts of orchestration and even further, both concepts can intermingle freely with one another (i.e. vertical orchestration often lends itself to vertical movement). Said plainly, music is very abstract. Anyway, let's dig in a bit.
The idea of chorale writing is so universally accepted as a fact of life that even the average listener can, for the most part, hear when it's incorrect. In fact, it's one of the very first things almost every composers learns to do. Chorale is the gospel of Bach and Vivaldi. It's what makes music flourish and churn underneath the melody.
The point here is that chorale writing is pretty dang important.
It's used almost exclusively between all tonal sections of the orchestra, winds, brass, strings, etc., anywhere there are chords possible. Even despite some more modern conventions brought on by 20th century music chorale is still the gold standard. Here's how it works:
The voices in use (traditionally four part with one voice being the melody, for this I do three part because we're only worried about chordal movement) move in different directions to reach the next chord. There are a few specialized rules involving the resolution from 5 to 1 and what-not but we're not talking strict theory, just basic concepts.
This is an example of chord movement using borrowed chords for heightened excitement. It's a very common trope in film scoring. In this case I'm using all major chords which gives us a powerful statement. The effect ends up on a 2nd inversion C major chord which is a bit of a drop off. I could have also resolved up to the same C major we began with but I chose to avoid it for the example.
With this example it's evident what planing is really good at, heightened vertical movement and heightened action. The music very clearly rockets itself to the higher C major for a very satisfying payoff. The intervallic relationships are maintained with the root firmly placed in the bass giving each chord a very clear and concise sound.
While not strictly diatonic, I did choose to base my chords changes around a C minor scale (I know it's written in C major but it's also very common to shift to the parallel minor for runs such as this). I like doing this with planing because it adds even more familiarity with the chordal movement, especially in a passage like this that would be a more forefront and bold statement. Often times chromatic planing is used to simply create a "blurry" kind of effect and gets used very often to convey things such as wind blowing or magical flourishes.
In this instance the chromatic planing is less to achieve a bold statement and more just to color the chord. We strike the C major and then shift around it to create some rough edges before smoothing everything back out. It's a good way to create a second resolve on a chord and tease the listener a bit. Obviously not usable for everything but it is useful all the same.
I use planing a lot, maybe some of it is my guitar background but I personally think it's wildly useful for creating new textures and safely exploring the space around a key (especially if the piece isn't too out there). Try listening for it now that we've gone over some of the basic concepts and uses, I'm sure you'll hear it all over the place.