Christmas Music as The Most Innovative of the Year

posted Dec 04, 2003

If you're all exposed to any kind of public music, you're probably already tired of Christmas music. After all, there are at best around 20 to 30 Christmas carols, and that's counting quite a few things like "Still, Still, Still", which I recognize but rarely hear in public. And it's the same 20 every year.

But if you can get past the repetitive nature of the melodies, I've been noticing how innovative Christmas songs get harmonically. After all, the song writers are as aware as we are, if not more so, of how repetitive the season gets.

Music typically played in public is very harmonically repetitive; entire decades have gotten by on I-V-IV-I and I-VI-IV-V-I. Most traditional Christmas carols come from the Classical tradition so they are almost all I-IV-V-I unless they come from the late twentieth century, which gets old after a month. It's nice to hear some variety.

For instance, consider this sample from Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Extraordinaire. (If your RSS reader supports enclosures it should have come in there.) Give it a listen; if you can't identify it look at the file name.

In that regard some of the Christmas music is almost worth it, since some of it is the most innovative music of the year... that is actually played in public anyway. Beggars can't be choosers.

Still a net loss. And this year I actually heard Christmas music in public before Thanksgiving, a first. Oi!

 

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