Analyzing Ryuichi Sakamoto “Merry Christmas, Mr. Laurence”

The original song is not in C Maj key but the sheet I Have is in C Maj so let just see as the key is in C maj

(The [B] part starts 1:50)

How does the Gm (Vm) come about?

Is it a modal interchange chord Vm (sub dominant) from the Mixolydian scale?

And if I'm right about Gm being a modal interchange chord from Mixolydian, how does this connect to Dm?

• Btw, this is clearly inspired by Debussy's "Claire de Lune", so analysis of that may help you to figure out what Sakamoto is doing, and why. – Your Uncle Bob Sep 12 '18 at 15:17
• @YourUncleBob which part of "Claire de Lune" should I look ? – Hyun Yoo Park Sep 14 '18 at 0:42
• It seems to be built around the underlying theme of Clair de Lune. E.g. in this recording: youtube.com/watch?v=4fvo_iOuSck it's most recognisable between 0:26 and 0:44, but the theme crops up in various guises throughout the piece. – Your Uncle Bob Sep 14 '18 at 17:04

Your intuition about the Gm is absolutely correct: it's just a result of mode mixture, also called modal interchange.

Before this Gm9, we have FM7–G7–Am7, which is really a IV7–V7–vi7 progression in C major. The Gm9 is then just a chord borrowed from C Mixolydian; instead of a V9 chord, we now have a v9 chord. I think borrowing from Mixolydian is better than borrowing from the parallel minor of C minor. If we were borrowing from C minor, we'd likely have an A♭ as well, which we don't.

At this point, the Gm9 moving to Dm is simply a v–ii progression in C. (You could also think of these as being brief i–v motions in Gm, but I don't hear G as tonic here). There's no chromaticism or fancy chord motion, it's just a minor dominant moving to the supertonic (ii) chord.

• what do you mean by "the music being more centered in Gm or Dm"? are you talking about key change ? – Hyun Yoo Park Sep 5 '18 at 16:22
• @HyunYooPark Yes, I'm talking about a key change. I mean that it's unclear to me whether G is tonic there or if D is. If I had to guess, I would say D is tonic, and thus my reading would align with (2) above. – Richard Sep 5 '18 at 16:30
• But what made you think the key has changed ? how could you define that ? I mean , from IVM7 V7 vi7 and all of sudden key change to dm ? doesn't it have to have more certain connection to make it happen ? – Hyun Yoo Park Sep 5 '18 at 17:54
• @HyunYooPark Only because I no longer hear C as tonic, although I do hear C as tonic in the FM7–G7–Am7 progression. Key changes can happen in all sorts of ways, but in short, if you feel like tonic is a different pitch than it was previously, then it's a key change. – Richard Sep 6 '18 at 2:27
• @HyunYooPark But now, listening to the piece with better speakers, I hear that section in C (that is, neither Gm or Dm). I'll edit accordingly! – Richard Sep 6 '18 at 2:28

everyone. I am from the country where Sakamoto was born. I suppose that Gm9->Dm9 should be interpreted as IIm->VIm in F Major, not in C Maj! Besides, Gm9->Bm7->E7 should be as IIm(in F Maj)->IIm(in A Minor)->V7(in A Minor) Hope this helps.