I don't seem to find an extensive resource on how to name out of scale chords in roman numeral analysis.

E.g. let's look at this piece from "All imperfect things" of Michael Nyman:

enter image description here

I'm stuck on M5 and M7. In my very inexperienced mind there's tons of possibilities here, and maybe I started all wrong to begin with.

I'm assuming this in in A minor, even though the key signature's G/Em, and I think M5 & M7 are borrowed from the relative major, i.e. that would make them the IV from C major.

I have no idea however how to notate that. And have tried to look that up, but only ever see the solution to a specific question, but haven't been able to find a clear explanation on how to notate borrowed chords in general.

  • This is minimal music, a theme is just 2 bars, so you could set the tonality and then the RN (e.g. bars 1-4 G: ii, vii6, I6 and measure 5-8 C: IV46, vii7, V6 ... the chord in question C-F-A resp. C-F-B could be analyzed as IV and vii above the pedal tone C. But I say: forget it :) – Albrecht Hügli Aug 15 '19 at 20:14
  1. It doesn‘t make much sense to analyze music like temporary film music that is not written in this spirit or context by Roman numbers. You can compare this minimal music with the chord material of early Renaissance music.

  2. We even don‘t know actually the key. Has the key sign f# been set originally by the composer or by the editor? Compare the added sheet music!

enter image description here

„After a fixed process, Nyman chooses [...] very short verbatim quotes from the classic template and subjects them to a minimalist repetition. The tonal orientation is retained, but the harmonic progression is changed. Finally, whole bars of the source material are missing and the harmonic stages are abruptly juxtaposed, instead of logically following a cadence. " Michael Nymans Musik als Musikgeschichte von Volker Straebel, 1999


The result is music that has both charmed initiates and uneducated listeners of the same musical appeal because it plays intelligently with tradition but on the other hand never becomes atonal. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Nyman

(The German wiki commentary is more extended than the English ...)

Edit: Well, if I had to analyze this piece with RN I would first define whether it is in a minor, G major or e minor:

F/C in a minor => IV46

G major => bVII 46 (the flat sign notated below the RN

and then the other RN should be adjusted to the key and also the half note changes in the r.h. could be determined. But as I said: it doesn‘t make sense!


For a start, if it IS considered to be in A minor, V would be E major. The E minor chord in bar 2 could be labelled v. You could call the F chord ♭VI. Roman numeral analysis covers chromatic chords. No need to 'borrow' unless a chromatic chord DOES lead into a new tonality, and this one doesn't.

But this isn't functional harmony. Functional analysis doesn't tell us anything much useful about it.

  • Wth that key sig. it might have been in A Dorian. But then why naturalise(?) the F#? – Tim Aug 15 '19 at 15:17

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