The inverse pedal point in music

Van Halen, Chopin, Johnny Cash, Samuel Barber

Inverted Pedal PointJaquandor, as is his tradition, was playing his Your Daily Dose of Christmas. One post highlighted the oratorio L’Enfance du Christ by Hector Berlioz. I had not heard that work.

Well, there is one exception. The Shepherd’s Farewell is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. And the best moment is when the soprano note remains on the same note, but the rest of the chord below it changes, at about 1:00, 2:20, and 3:45 here. I find it utterly exquisite. Does that have a musical name?

As it turns out, it does. “That is called an ‘inverse pedal point’! A pedal point happens when the bass tone holds while everything above it shifts; an inversion occurs when the same thing is done with a voice other than the bass. Music! :)”

Now, I was familiar with the pedal point, even if I didn’t know what it was called. Singing bass in a church choir, we often sustained our notes while the other sections moved. This guy can explain better than I.

And here are some examples. It appears Jump by Van Halen is a popular choice. As I suspected, the drone of the bagpipe is a pedal point.

“When a pedal point occurs in a voice other than the bass, it is usually referred to as an inverted pedal point. Pedal points are usually on either the tonic or the dominant (fifth note of the scale) tones.” Think of the version of Hurt by Johnny Cash, starting at 0:52.


Final cadences, such as the Amen at the end of a church hymn, often involve the sopranos singing the tonic note twice, while the other parts move. Listen to the Barber Adagio for Strings, specifically around 5:30, and in general about 2/3s of the way through a recording. It ALWAYS devastates me.

Another favorite piece of music with a pedal point is the Raindrop Prelude, Op.28 No.15 by Chopin. This video is useful because it comes with a score. As Paul Barton plays the FEURICH piano, note that there’s a pedal point almost from the very beginning in the bass line. But notice how, at 2 minutes in, at the key change, the continual note is now at the top, first in the bass clef, then the treble. Then the repeated note is somewhere in the middle before the piece reverts to the original key.

If you want to play music at my funeral, I’d suggest the Barber adagio or Raindrop Prelude by Chopin. Or preferably both, though I probably won’t have much of a say in the decision.

Music Throwback Saturday: Could It Be Magic

By 1975, Manilow was sufficiently hot that his magical collaboration with Chopin was released as a single

BarryManilowI love the music of Frederic Chopin. Seriously, there’s a piece by him I want to be played at my funeral. This must explain the affection for my favorite song by Barry Manilow (born Barry Alan Pincus; June 17, 1943).

The Wikipedia narrative, which matches Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles information:


Before Manilow’s well-known association with Bette Midler began at the Continental Baths in New York City in 1971, he recorded four tracks as Featherbed, leading a group of session musicians produced and arranged by Tony Orlando.

Three of the tracks, [including]… an early version of his own composition “Could It Be Magic”, all flopped on the charts, a fact for which Manilow himself is fond of saying he is eternally grateful… That was because the arrangement of “Could It Be Magic” was an uptempo pop tune. Manilow had arranged the tune as a classical piece that slowly built.

From the greatest hits Ultimate Manilow album liner notes:

The earliest song here that Manilow actually wrote was Could It Be Magic, which originally appeared on his 1973 debut album… “I thought I had come up with the coolest batch of chords in my composing experience,” he remembers. “And then I realized that before I had that glass of wine, I had been playing my Chopin preludes. And I wrote the song around the Chopin ‘Prelude in C Minor.” By 1975, Manilow was sufficiently hot that his magical collaboration with Chopin was released as a single and rose right into the Top Ten.

Listen to the Chopin Prelude in C Minor, then Could It Be Magic by Barry Manilow, which sounds, to my ear, like an earlier iteration than the hit version.

Or go to, linking to both the Chopin Prelude and Could It Be Magic, which went to #6 in 1975.

But to a real shock to the system, listen to Could It Be Magic from Featherbed featuring Barry Manilow from c 1971 HERE or HERE.

The end of the world

The End of the World by Skeeter Davis, which came out in early 1963, is considered the most successful crossover hit ever

End-of-WorldI’m rushing out to go to work last Friday when my eyeglasses break. This isn’t the screw coming out, for which I have tools for fixing the problem – assuming I can find the screw, and the tools. No, this break severed the screw. AND I can’t find the lens because I don’t have my glasses. The Wife comes to my aid.

I seek older pairs of my eyewear. Even days later, I discover: 1) the previous pair of glasses is MIA; 2) the pair before that is broken. I found a couple of eyeglasses cases that are empty. Discovered an old pair from, a decade ago? or longer? that The Daughter thinks are scary because they’re much larger on my face. If I had my photos in order, I could find a photo of me wearing them.

Got through the weekend with the ancient pair. Not so hard to use at the computer, but it’s a challenge reading music at church on Sunday, especially the offertory in 5/4. Fortunately, the anthem was “Come Thy Holy Spirit” by Pavel Tschesnokoff, which I first sang 45 YEARS AGO. (Lots of versions online as “Let Thy Holy Spirit“.)

In other words, breaking the glasses was not “The end of the world,” especially after I get them fixed Monday.
Sad news: Warren Olin died Sunday afternoon. He was the patriarch of the Olin clan, eldest of eight children, and the family genealogist who discovered his ninth generation ancestors John Olin and Susannah Spencer, and wrote the book – actually two books – about them and their descendants. Warren was the older brother of my mother-in-law, and my wife’s uncle.

Oddly, though, he didn’t want any funeral or public event, much to The Wife’s surprise. We’re sure all the branches of the clan would have wanted to acknowledge his passing. I can only gather that he didn’t want to be a bother.

(For my departure, you can make all the civilized ruckus you want. I’m requesting Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude in D flat Major, Op.28 No.15, which someone was playing after church this weekend.)
Some friend of my niece Alexandria was noting the passing of a huge asteroid by the Earth this past Sunday.

peaking about “The Beast”, [an expert] said: “This one would definitely be catastrophic if it hit the Earth…
“If it hit a city, it would definitely wipe out an entire metropolitan area.”
The explosion would unleash an explosion with a yield of about 2000 megatons.
“You’d end up with a crater about 4.8km (~3 miles) across… An event like that would break windows over 100 kilometres (~62 miles) away.”

Alex’s friend complained: “So why am I only finding out about this NOW?” The facts were known by astronomers two weeks ago. I wondered, “What would you do if you knew?”

Now if we knew this, or a subsequent large asteroid, WERE going to hit the earth, I wonder how we would live our lives differently?
All this, of course, had me thinking about music. I Googled End of the World music. Naturally, I got that REM song. But that wasn’t what I was wanted.

I had on my mind The End of the World by Skeeter Davis, which came out in early 1963. It is considered the most successful crossover hit ever, going to #2 on both the country and pop charts, #1 on the adult contemporary charts, and, surprisingly, #4 on the rhythm and blues charts, “making Davis one of the very few Caucasian female singers to have a top ten hit in that market.” I love the set on this live version.

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