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The theme song of the TV show "South Park" has always sounded musically weird to me, but I have never understood why. I've been wondering if it is possible to use music theory to explain what makes the song sound odd in the way it does, in a way that a musical newbie like me could comprehend. Can anyone clarify this? Thanks!

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  • To add to the answer, take a look at the sponsors of South Park. Hint - one of them is Zildjian, the 400-year old company that makes cymbals. Have you noticed a lot of cymbals in the theme? My point is, South Park deals with a lot of nitty gritty, and the theme reflects that by using quite an off-beat groove that... literally... makes no sense - except if you were to make it a concert piece, it would be playable, but hard. Jul 31, 2023 at 21:27

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The South Park intro is based around a diminished seventh chord. The accompaniment goes back and forth between 1-b5 and b3-bb7, while the vocals center on the b5.

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    For a person who doesn’t know a lot of music theory, maybe it would help to talk more about the harmonic flavor the tritone creates. To me this answer is edifying but I wonder if to someone with less depth of knowledge it might be like saying a PNVS is simply an FLIR. Aug 1, 2023 at 1:42
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    @ToddWilcox But everyone knows a PNVS is simply a FLIR, don't they? (I'll see what I can come up with.)
    – Aaron
    Aug 1, 2023 at 2:32
  • @ToddWilcox Here's an edit suggestion: The harmonic flavor of the diminished seventh chord is that it creates ambiguity while still preserving harmonic/tonal tension. If prolonged, It allows the composer to introduce subjectively "relentless tension" feel both in relation to any hint of a key, while also not really confirming any key at all. The ambiguity stems from the diminshed seventh chord's "enharmonic" nature - i.e. there are exactly three diminished seventh chords (sonic-equivalent, disregarding notation and theory). Lots of classical composers used the technique to create this effect. Nov 29, 2023 at 21:28
  • Similar stands for the tritone - a tritone is simply the "largest" interval because an inversion of a tritone is a tritone, compared with inverting any other interval, which can be reduced to an inversion that is "smaller" (less spacy). So, e.g., a fifth, larger than tritone can be inverted to a fourth, a sixth to a third, etc. Nov 29, 2023 at 21:32

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