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I'm assuming that Jenny Ji hasn't hoodwinked us by covertly consulting the score, before reviewing this song in this Youtube video. To improve my ear training, I deliberately refrained from reading the score too. But every "Seventh", that Ji identifies, sounds like the tonic scale degree to me! I just don't hear any Major or Minor Sevenths. Do these Sevenths sound like the tonic to anyone else? What's wrong with my hearing?

At 10:57, Jenny Ji says

Sev, one, five, three. Sev, five, three. Seven.

At 11:38, Ji remarks

This song is, like, exploiting how the major seventh chord on one utilizes, like, both tonic and dominant functions.

At 11:59

It's kinda cool, cuz if you just play within the major seventh chord, and add in like a nine, you get like scale degrees 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7. And then you can build dominant and tonic. So it can be dominant and tonic!

Kevin Wang BM analyzes this song more at 15:00, but perhaps his analysis deserves a separate post.

Jenny Yunyi Ji graduated with "the Bachelor of Music program at the Eastman School of Music[1] and is currently pursuing a Master's in Piano Performance under the studio of Jon Nakamatsu at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music."

[1]In 2017, according to Linkedin.

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It's a kind of auditory illusion. You may be hearing this melody as a syncopated form of

X:1
L:1/8
M:C
K:A
%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] E dc GG | A4

...where indeed the beat 1 has the tonic as the melody note. But that's not what it is. This wouldn't actually fit the lyrical rhythm “My life is so beautéey”?

Instead, the prototype is

X:1
L:1/8
M:C
K:A
%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] E dc G(A | A4)

but the final note is split up into a suspension resolving upwards over the two syllables of “beauty”, like

X:1
L:1/8
M:C
K:A
%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] E dc G2 | G2 A2

Here it would be obvious that there's a scale degree ⅶ on beat 1, but the syncopation of this note in the actual version hides this, making the G♯ hit still in the preceding bar, so even though it sounds over beat 1, the only note that hits in the concluding bar is the A on beat 2, which is why you're hearing it overall as a simple tonic.

X:1
L:1/8
M:C
K:A
%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] E dc G(G | G2) A2

I'm not sure I've actually heard a ⅶ resolving to Ⅰ all on the chord called suspension in English, or the equivalent “Vorhalt” in German either – a suspension is most typically Ⅳ-ⅲ. But [off-topic tangent ahead] in Norwegian folk music, this is extremely common and called a forslag, which would otherwise be translated as suspension. Springar dances typically end in this motif:
X:1
L:1/8
M:3/4
K:E
%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] (3fdf) | de

which might also be written with an appogiatura, though it isn't really played this way:

X:1
L:1/8
M:3/4
K:E
%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] (3fdf) | {d}e2

That's probably where the divergence between the cognate terms Vorschlag (appogiatura) in German and forslag (suspension) in Norwegian comes from.

4
  • 1
    Interesting how the cognates of Vorschlag and forslag have totally different meanings!
    – Richard
    Jun 13 at 15:59
  • 1
    Well, it's not totally different, there's certainly a historic connection. I added a bit of discussion on that (though this really isn't the question topic...) Jun 13 at 16:15
  • Could you highlight the differences between the first four bits of notation please?  They all look the same here…
    – gidds
    Jun 13 at 18:49
  • @gidds aww. ABC is behaving funny again... Jun 13 at 19:20
3

There's nothing wrong with your hearing. The (major) seven scale degree is just faint and difficult to hear.

The clearest instance, which gets covered up by Ji's voice in the reaction video, is at 3:18 in the original song, in the guitar part.


Here is one possible way to learn to hear scale degree seven in this song.

  1. Listen to the lyric "my life is so beauty," stopping the video exactly when she sings "so beau-", which she sustains for a second or two. Those syllables are sung on the leading tone, and it's sustained long enough for the ear to really focus on it. This occurs from 2:22 to 2:26, resolving to the tonic on "-ty".
  2. When you can hear that reliably, keep listening until she sings the same lyrics at 2:33 – 2:36, and make sure you can again hear the leading tone clearly.
  3. A little trickier to hear, is the echo of "my life is so beauty" that occurs at 2:39–2:42. It's exactly the same phrase, but now in the background, so requires more careful listening.
  4. From 2:46–2:51, the guitar just plays 7-1-7-1 back and forth. Make sure you can hear that. Same thing from 2:56–3:02.
  5. The guitar continues that pattern in 3:07–3:13, but now behind the lead guitar, so again, harder to hear.
  6. If you can hear all of this, then it should be much easier to hear the guitar play the same 7-1 figure at 3:18.
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