Friday 09/25/2015 by phishnet

MODULATING JAMS OF SUMMER 2015 - PART 1

[Editor's Note: We welcome back phish.net contributor and musicologist Mike Hamad, who shares his thoughts on the "Modulating Jams of Summer 2015." Below is the introduction and part one, of three parts. Parts two and three will run here early next week. -PZ]

Not counting the Magnaball Drive-In Jam, Phish played 513 songs – roughly three days of non-stop music – during the summer 2015 tour, spread across 51 sets and 25 shows in 16 different venues. That’s a lot of music.

A minor subset – 37 songs, clocking in at nearly ten hours – stands out not because of how good it was, but because of what happened during those ten hours: in every case, the band, as a unit, changed keys. In musical/analytical circles, this is known as “modulation.”

Each modulation lasted more than two minutes. It’s an arbitrary amount of time that I chose to distinguish between structural modulations, or key changes, that I felt would unmistakably weaken the music if they weren’t there, and last-minute swerves, to enter new keys and set up subsequent segues to other songs. Anyway, two minutes is a good, round number.

Technically speaking, this group of 37 jams represents the most harmonically adventurous collection of improvisational rock music played by Phish during the summer – the Type II-est of the Type IIs. In this series I’ll discuss the different types of modulation practiced by Phish, the common pathways they use to get where they’re going, and where they ended up on the other side.

In part one, I’ll talk about modulation in a general sense, before getting into the group of 37 jams that meets these conditions. In part two, I’ll lay out the four different types of modulation heard in the summer of 2015, as well as common pathways heard in each category. Finally, in part three, I’ll discuss compound modulations, jams that nearly made the cut, and how Phish treats segues after modulating jams.

PART ONE
What is modulation?

Inclusion on this list has nothing to do with taste (or even “Taste”). Each song/jam meets a single condition: it modulates to a new key for longer than two minutes. Improvisational rock music has many things going for it, and modulation is only one. Obviously it’s possible to enjoy Phish jams without hearing any of these, and that’s because, at its most elemental, Phish music is dance music.

I’ve written about Phish and modulation for phish.net, and also for Lawn Memo’s The Daily Ghost. Improvising rock musicians – arguably all musicians – think in terms of keys (F, G, A, D, etc.) and modes (major, minor, Dorian, Mixolydian, Lydian, Phrygian, pentatonic, and so on). Part of that is physical, and has to do with hand placement on an instrument. Piano players can attest that playing in B minor, for example, feels very different than playing in A minor; the same goes for the guitar and bass. (You may recall Trey’s comment to Phish.net member Andrew Hitz, when they discussed the Mike’s Song second jam in Nashville: “Ooh, I like jamming in F.”)

Modulation isn’t required for a jam to be considered “good” (check out the list of honorable mentions later in this article). But looking across Phish’s enormous output over the years, there’s an argument to be made that a significant percentage of Hall of Fame jams modulate at some point. (A quick scan of Matt Burnham’s HOF poll tells me that six of the seven Tier 1 jams modulate.)

In a general sense, every Phish jam starts out the same way: in a certain key (A, for example, if you’re talking about “Ghost”) and mode (minor; more specifically, the Dorian mode, which employs the raised ^6 scale degree and the flatted ^7 scale degree). Countless “Ghost” jams (7/21/15, for example) begin and end in the same key and mode, without straying, and they’re awesome.

After a while, particularly during longer jams, ears and fingers get tired of being in (and hearing) the same key and mode. Phish often switches modes from major to minor (what’s known as “mode-mixture”) for variety, while remaining in the same key. Mode-mixture is fairly easy, and Trey or Page, because they play chordal instruments, are responsible for this slice of the pie.

Modulation occurs when Mike decides he’s going to make a new tonal center the “tonic,” or “home.” The lowest voice in any musical texture has this power. It’s some sort of physical thing, but it’s true. The other guys can (and very often do) signal that they want to go someplace else, but Mike has to buy in.

Still, I’d argue that modulation is an important part of what makes great Phish jams great. You’ll find many of the most talked-about jams of summer 2015 on this list: Atlanta “Kill Devil Falls”; Blossom “Chalk Dust Torture” -> “Tweezer”; Mann “Twist”; MPP “Twist”; Magnaball “Bathtub Gin,” “Tweezer” -> “Prince Caspian,” and “Blaze On”; Dick’s “CDT” and “Down with Disease,” and so on.

Other beloved 2015 jams are not on the list: Bend “Simple”; Nashville “Stash” and “Mike’s Groove”; Mann “Cities” & “Scents and Subtle Sounds”; MPP “David Bowie,” and so on. I’ll discuss some of these later.

Table 1 lists the modulating jams of summer 2015:

Date Location Songs
7/24 Shoreline, CA Twist,” “Light,” “Harry Hood”
7/28 Austin, TX “Ghost”
7/29 Grand Prairie, TX “Chalk Dust Torture”
7/31 Atlanta, GA “Ghost,” “Kill Devil Falls,” “Twist”
8/1 Atlanta, GA Tweezer,” “Carini”
8/2 Tuscaloosa, AL “Down with Disease”
8/4 Nashville, TN Golden Age
8/5 Kansas City, MO “Down with Disease”
8/7 Cuyahoga Falls, OH “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Tweezer”
8/8 East Troy, WI “Down with Disease,” “Light”
8/9 East Troy, WI “Tweezer”
8/12 Philadelphia, PA Twist
8/15 Columbia, MD “46 Days,” “Piper”
8/16 Columbia, MD “Twist”
8/21 Watkins Glen, NY Simple,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Ghost”
8/22 Watkins Glen, NY “46 Days,” “Tweezer,” “Prince Caspian,” “Blaze On,” “Light”
8/23 Watkins Glen, NY “Down with Disease”
9/4 Commerce City, CO “Golden Age,” “Fuego”
9/5 Commerce City, CO “Chalk Dust Torture”
9/6 Commerce City, CO Down with Disease,” “Carini”

Why these particular songs?

In this group of 37, you’ll notice that there are only seventeen different song titles. Alphabetically, these are: “46 Days” (2 examples), “Bathtub Gin” (1), “Blaze On” (1), “Carini” (2), “Chalk Dust Torture” (4), “Down with Disease” (5), “Fuego” (1), “Ghost” (3), “Golden Age” (2), “Harry Hood” (1), “Kill Devil Falls” (1), “Light” (3), “Piper” (1), “Prince Caspian” (1), “Simple” (1), “Tweezer” (4) and “Twist” (4).

The most exploratory song of summer 2015, if you wish to count them, was “Disease” (five modulating jams), followed by “Chalk Dust,” “Tweezer” and “Twist” (four each); “Light” and “Ghost” (three each); and “Carini” and “Golden Age” (two each).

This group of seventeen contains several different types of songs. Some are open-ended, meaning we don’t expect them to return to any sort of “head,” and are therefore natural choices for exploratory, Type II jams. Among this group: “46 Days” (it’s usually the second jam, though 8/22 only has one jam), “Carini,” “Down with Disease,” “Ghost,” “Golden Age,” “Light,” “Piper,” “Simple,” “Tweezer” and “Twist.” Some of these had typical returns in earlier days, and some still do return to the head; see the 7/25 “Disease”, for example.

Building on what they’ve done with “Chalk Dust Torture” in 3.0, its appearance on this list is no surprise. Prior to 2015, however, Type II “Chalk Dust” jams (7/13/14 or 8/3/14, for example) took off in the middle of the song, without the final chorus, and are therefore labeled “unfinished” by the phish.net setlist gurus. That changed in 2015; every “Chalk Dust” played during the summer was of the finished short: after a short guitar solo, Trey signaled the return of the chorus. Modulatory “CDT” jams, a la 8/31/12, are what you’d call “second jams.”

“Bathtub Gin” typically returns to its C-major head before ending (8/21 is no exception), but I’m also not surprised that at least one version got spun out in 2015 (oh, and WHAT a spinning out that was). “Fuego” sometimes ends formally (see: 7/25), but it also occasionally spins out without modulating (8/11) or spins out with modulation (9/4, and many examples in 2014).

“Blaze On,” a new song in 2015, always concludes before it either spins out (as on 8/22) or does not (7/28 and several others). Two additional songs – 7/31 “Kill Devil Falls” and 8/22 “Prince Caspian” – normally conclude and don’t get that spun out – but these two certainly did.

“Harry Hood” is another story. In 3.0, it’s unusual to hear a “Hood” jam that modulates, but it happened on 7/24, when we heard four minutes (!) of a modulation from D major to C major (flat-VII, from 8:26-12:28).

“Hood” is part of a group of songs typically known in 3.0, with important exceptions, as Type I jam vehicles, along with “Antelope,” “Bowie,” “Stash,” “Mike’s Song,” “Reba,” “Runaway Jim,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Wolfman’s,” “YEM,” and a few others. These are some of the most welcome jam songs in the 3.0 repertoire, and they seldom modulate (although a frequent, welcome occurrence in this group is the appearance of a lengthy tonicization of another key).

Tonicization vs. Modulation
Tonicization occurs when a key area outside the tonic (i.e. the “home” key) is temporarily treated as the tonic. This new area feels like home for a little while, but not for long. Modulation, on the other hand, is deeper and more structural. (Note: all timings are from LivePhish.)

The 7/28 “Antelope,” for example, is a jam that takes place in E minor, with a short tonicization of G major (III) from 4:11-4:42. For roughly 30 seconds, we feel like G major is home, before the bass slips back to E. It’s a good jam, but it doesn’t make this list because it doesn’t technically modulate. The 8/22 “Antelope” tonicizes B major (V) from 4:52-5:39, then G major (III) from 5:40-6:18, for 1.5 total minutes of being displaced from E minor.

Similarly, in the 8/4 “Stash” jam, we hear fifteen seconds of a move from D minor to F major (III, from 6:20-6:34), then fifteen more seconds of an A major (V) tonic (from 6:35-6:50) before Mike re-settles in D minor. The 8/9 “Melt” jam (in C# minor) contains a lot of dissonance and harmonic ambiguity, but it briefly tonicizes B (7:35) and A (8:18). The 8/11 “Bowie” jam (in E minor) tonicizes G major (III) twice (at 5:27 and 6:55), and the 8/16 “Bowie” jam contains extensive tonicizations of A major (IV) at 8:09 and 9:17.

Tonicization frequently happens in jams that also modulate. The 8/1 “Tweezer,” for example, a jam in A minor, contains a brief tonicization of D major (IV) from 8:25-8:46, before the eventual, seismic modulation to C major (III) at 9:51.

Location, location, location…
Not surprisingly, in 2015, the overwhelming majority of modulating jams occurred during second sets, either…

We’ve come to expect harmonic exploration in second sets, in other words, because that’s when usually happens.

Three exceptions: the first-set Ghost on “7/31,” which returned back to its home key (A minor) after a five-minute jam in D major (IV). And Magnaballers were treated to rare, modulating first-set bookends – the “Simple” opener and “Bathtub Gin” set closer – a phenomenon that recalls the latter years of 1.0.

[Look for parts two and three here at the phish.net blog next week...]

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Comments

, comment by hambone024
hambone024 Awesome post. More like this please. Great for helping to explain the mechanics and to nerd out to the next level.
, comment by chillwig
chillwig so if tonicization happens during Bathtub Gin is that a Gin & Tonic?
, comment by slugsack
slugsack Wow - that's a fantastic analysis. Does Fishman use different toms for different keys? How does the rhythm punctuate the key changes if it does anything at all? For example, have there been corresponding rhythmic shifts? I'm asking because I expect so. As you say "the whole band" modulates, in so far as this is possible.
, comment by NoHayBanda
NoHayBanda love it. enjoyed that quite a bit!
great to see some phish analysis outside of opinion.
, comment by PhishMarketStew
PhishMarketStew In the beginning it says "roughly three days of non stop music", did you mean Weeks?
, comment by jwoodson
jwoodson @PhishMarketStew said:
In the beginning it says "roughly three days of non stop music", did you mean Weeks?
He meant if you played the shows all back to back. 25 shows is about 24X3=72 hours.
, comment by jwoodson
jwoodson i am making a modulation mix as we speak with his tracklist..
, comment by chillwig
chillwig now imagine if trey had worn his Marvin the Martian shirt
, comment by _Hero
_Hero Some others were talking about a modulation in the Nashville 2nd Jam in Mike's Song that was re-introduced in Summer 2015. Not sure if there's one there or not, I wasn't paying close attention to key signature at the time, jumping up and down with excitement and getting weird looks from my wife as I was.

But I'd like to make a point along these same lines. Phish has being doing multi-modal work in the style of Debussy, Chopin and Scriabin for quite a long time. Recently it's been quite notably consistent in "Light." Check out this one officially released from Phish on Vimeo from about minute mark 5:00, listen closely to shifting tonality of the melody lines and become yourself tonally saavy. You can hear the bass transversing some extremely open, "Copeland-esque" melodic lines while keys and guitar just keep passing their switches back and forth between modes. It's freshy-fresh:



Listen to the above sweet jammy jam especially at minute mark 12:50 and you can hear the concept of simultaneous bi-modality reintroduced by the 13:10 mark in chordal form. The crowd goes wild and doesn't really know why.

~ But you do.

phish.net: your home for getting to know the knowings
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @slugsack said:
How does the rhythm punctuate the key changes if it does anything at all? For example, have there been corresponding rhythmic shifts?
Excellent question.

Often, yes. Fishman is as attuned to the subtleties of improvisational dynamism and motion as the rest of the band, but because he doesn't play a pitched instrument, he likely feels these harmonic/melodic shifts much in the same way we, as listeners, do. I obviously don't know for certain, but I would be surprised if his ear is as melodically and harmonically trained as the other guys simply because he does not have to make corresponding shifts in his own playing (i.e. he won't sound dissonant if he doesn't follow a particular melodic or harmonic change the way the other three would).

However, Fishman often does make shifts when he senses a new jam segment starting. As the rest of the band shifts into a new tonal space with its own distinct affect, Fishman is often quick to follow by a corresponding shift in rhythm or beat. For example, listen to the 7/31/15 Kill Devil Falls: from around 9:00 to 9:45, the band solidifies a mode mixing shift from C major to C minor, and Fishman responds by matching his accents to Trey's rhythmic accents (one of Fish's most unique traits is that, for most of the early years of Phish, he followed Trey and not Mike. It's very rare in rock music for a drummer to follow the melodic instruments rather than the other bass instrument - indeed this is why the bass and drums are referred to as the "rhythm section." ;) . The "KDF" beat is breaking down as Fishman senses the mode mixture happening.

The modulation in this jam starts right at 9:52, when Trey plays a rising riff that then falls to G, and Mike immediately hammers a low G as if to say "yes, let's go to G minor now." The band then gets quieter, bringing everything down in energy and dynamic, and again, Fishman follows. But part of the reason Trey/Mike/Pags changed their timbre was because they knew they were now in a different key. Fishman doesn't change anything drastically, but he does follow the rest of the band in affect and mood, playing more erratically on toms, matching rhythmic accents from Trey and Page with his own cymbal and snare accents, and generally disrupting the previous "KDF" beat further.

So the short answer is yes, Fishman has rhythmic shifts for modulations, sometimes. But it's not for necessarily the same reasons that the rest of the band changes keys. Page switches keys because he knows that he will sound dissonant against Mike and Trey if he doesn't and he doesn't (always) want that to happen. He also modulates because he is in a musical conversation with Mike and Trey, and as they move the conversation, he does too. Fish is having a slightly different relationship to this harmonic conversation. He changes his rhythms, slightly as to not disrupt the groove, because he senses the conversation has moved, although because he is not a participant in the harmonic conversation, he doesn't have to change anything.

Fishman does not use different toms for different keys, though, or to put it more technically, he does not have specific timbres for specific keys. His choice of sound (whether it's cymbals, toms, snares, or blocks/bell) is independent from tonality.
, comment by gratefulterp
gratefulterp Thank you for the work here. This grateful idiot specifically appreciates your having explained the terminology. Looking forward to parts II and III.
, comment by sixwatergrog
sixwatergrog Love this. I wish there were more like it. Could you talk a bit about what happens to the structure of the music after they modulate? Presumably, most of these songs start off with a form - the song itself - that contains a certain chord structure that might be repeated through the verse/chorus/bridge etc. Traditionally - as in jazz and bluegrass - improvisation consists of jamming over these chord changes, right? At a certain point, maybe even prior to modulation, Phish must depart from this structure to do there so-called Type II jamming. So what is happening structurally during these jams, especially after modulating? Are they still playing over chord changes, albeit spontaneous assembled ones, or is the jamming based on a different method?

It is this type of jamming that separates Phish from other bands and other styles of music, IMO. I don't think of it as being similar to free jazz, for example, because free jazz seems to have a "when in doubt revert to chaos, freakout and noise" mentality, but Phish' "free improv" jams seem to always retain forward motion and some type of structure, even as it's being created on the spot. Like in the Magnaball soundcheck jam and Drive In jams, for example.
, comment by Yakul
Yakul Best post I've ever read on .net, hands down. Some of my favorite Phish modulation jams:

Denver '97 Ghost
Fukuoka Twist
Island Tour Shafty soundcheck (you can actually hear Trey discussing the modulation when they finish the jam -- they go from Dorian to Lydian, which is my favorite of all Phish modulations)
Camden Chalkdust
Gorge Rock 'n' Roll -- where what makes this jam so awesome is that they basically all seem to decided to modulate at exactly the same time -- total telekinesis.

Etc., etc.
, comment by chooglincharley
chooglincharley wonderful post; well articulated and explained.

Thanks!
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS I've said for years that Mike is the key to most of the best jams in Phish's history, and I've usually been treated to silence by the folks I've said this to. This article helped me understand why I have felt this way. Thanks.
, comment by 12_29_97_4eva
12_29_97_4eva How many of those jams modulated from the relative minor to major? Or the reverse? Seems like most of those jams followed a similar pattern, but I also haven't studied them extensively. Off the top of my head, but the 8/15 46 Days and Twist modulated from i to III (B minor to D major in 46 Days and G minor to B-flat major in Twist). Am I wrong?
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad Thanks for reading and for all the great comments. I'll break down the modulation types and what happens next (segues) in Parts 2 (Monday) and 3 (Tuesday).
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad @sixwatergrog said:
Love this. I wish there were more like it. Could you talk a bit about what happens to the structure of the music after they modulate? Presumably, most of these songs start off with a form - the song itself - that contains a certain chord structure that might be repeated through the verse/chorus/bridge etc. Traditionally - as in jazz and bluegrass - improvisation consists of jamming over these chord changes, right? At a certain point, maybe even prior to modulation, Phish must depart from this structure to do there so-called Type II jamming. So what is happening structurally during these jams, especially after modulating? Are they still playing over chord changes, albeit spontaneous assembled ones, or is the jamming based on a different method?

It is this type of jamming that separates Phish from other bands and other styles of music, IMO. I don't think of it as being similar to free jazz, for example, because free jazz seems to have a "when in doubt revert to chaos, freakout and noise" mentality, but Phish' "free improv" jams seem to always retain forward motion and some type of structure, even as it's being created on the spot. Like in the Magnaball soundcheck jam and Drive In jams, for example.
Yeah, I think most of the time after moving to a new key they're just trying to establish something different, in a new key and mode (eg. C major of Caspian jam), over the same groove or a new one. And then sometimes they invent a new chord progression spontaneously (the C major part of MB Tweezer, or the end part of Dick's Disease). Sometimes it depends on the type of modulation too, as the next post on Monday will address.
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad @_Hero said:
Some others were talking about a modulation in the Nashville 2nd Jam in Mike's Song that was re-introduced in Summer 2015. Not sure if there's one there or not, I wasn't paying close attention to key signature at the time, jumping up and down with excitement and getting weird looks from my wife as I was.

But I'd like to make a point along these same lines. Phish has being doing multi-modal work in the style of Debussy, Chopin and Scriabin for quite a long time. Recently it's been quite notably consistent in "Light." Check out this one officially released from Phish on Vimeo from about minute mark 5:00, listen closely to shifting tonality of the melody lines and become yourself tonally saavy. You can hear the bass transversing some extremely open, "Copeland-esque" melodic lines while keys and guitar just keep passing their switches back and forth between modes. It's freshy-fresh:



Listen to the above sweet jammy jam especially at minute mark 12:50 and you can hear the concept of simultaneous bi-modality reintroduced by the 13:10 mark in chordal form. The crowd goes wild and doesn't really know why.

~ But you do.

phish.net: your home for getting to know the knowings
Damn, that is super cool. What a fearless, gutsy move.
, comment by solargarlic78
solargarlic78 A lot of what you're calling modulation is really just migrating from chord to chord in a given key. For example, the 8/1 Tweezer goes from Amin to D to C . All those chords and scales contain the same notes (G A B C D E F#). That's the scale for Gmajor. So they're shifting "modes" but not keys. Dorian to Myxolydian to Lydian. So is this really modulation at all if the 7 note scale never changes?
, comment by dipped
dipped Thank you - so well explained. And nice assist @_Hero.
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad @solargarlic78 said:
A lot of what you're calling modulation is really just migrating from chord to chord in a given key. For example, the 8/1 Tweezer goes from Amin to D to C . All those chords and scales contain the same notes (G A B C D E F#). That's the scale for Gmajor. So they're shifting "modes" but not keys. Dorian to Myxolydian to Lydian. So is this really modulation at all if the 7 note scale never changes?
You can call it migrating from chord to chord too. We're hearing the same thing, just defining terms differently. Also: that pitch collection does change in subtle ways (F vs F# mainly) in a move from A min > D > C (Lydian mode never wants to stick around for long, etc)
, comment by fluffpharm
fluffpharm This was an amazing read. Throughly enjoyed, thank you!
, comment by deadphancam
deadphancam Fantastic read! Do you have a list of the jams that modulated for 1 minute? I feel that 1 minute can seem like an eternity in a deep jam.
, comment by solargarlic78
solargarlic78 Well, if that Tweezer starts playing the F note then yes I would call that a modulation (from the scale of Gmajor to Cmajor). My only point is it's much more jarring when you modulate from key/scale to another - like in the Hood versions that go from Dmajor to Dmixo - that C note really hits ya. But my view is that Phish's most common style is to migrate from chord to chord, mode to mode. For example, many, many Ghosts go from A Dorian to D mixo - but the scale/key remains the notes of Gmajor - it's just the mode and tonal center has shifted. That shift sounds really cool (minor to major) but it's less jarring because the key/scale hasn't changed.

@MikeHamad said:
@solargarlic78 said:
A lot of what you're calling modulation is really just migrating from chord to chord in a given key. For example, the 8/1 Tweezer goes from Amin to D to C . All those chords and scales contain the same notes (G A B C D E F#). That's the scale for Gmajor. So they're shifting "modes" but not keys. Dorian to Myxolydian to Lydian. So is this really modulation at all if the 7 note scale never changes?
You can call it migrating from chord to chord too. We're hearing the same thing, just defining terms differently. Also: that pitch collection does change in subtle ways (F vs F# mainly) in a move from A min > D > C (Lydian mode never wants to stick around for long, etc)
, comment by relax_
relax_ I love this - thank you so much, @MikeHamad! I look forward to parts 2 & 3. Great comments here as well. I hope similar discussions trickle down into the forums.
, comment by mgh2001
mgh2001 What's the quickest, most rapid, so to speak, modulation that we can come up with? Enough with these 3 minute modulations.

BTW, the halloween show in Vegas was one big modulation.
, comment by mikh2wg
mikh2wg @smoothatonalsnd said:
@slugsack said:
How does the rhythm punctuate the key changes if it does anything at all? For example, have there been corresponding rhythmic shifts?
Excellent question.

Often, yes. Fishman is as attuned to the subtleties of improvisational dynamism and motion as the rest of the band, but because he doesn't play a pitched instrument, he likely feels these harmonic/melodic shifts much in the same way we, as listeners, do. I obviously don't know for certain, but I would be surprised if his ear is as melodically and harmonically trained as the other guys simply because he does not have to make corresponding shifts in his own playing (i.e. he won't sound dissonant if he doesn't follow a particular melodic or harmonic change the way the other three would).

However, Fishman often does make shifts when he senses a new jam segment starting. As the rest of the band shifts into a new tonal space with its own distinct affect, Fishman is often quick to follow by a corresponding shift in rhythm or beat. For example, listen to the 7/31/15 Kill Devil Falls: from around 9:00 to 9:45, the band solidifies a mode mixing shift from C major to C minor, and Fishman responds by matching his accents to Trey's rhythmic accents (one of Fish's most unique traits is that, for most of the early years of Phish, he followed Trey and not Mike. It's very rare in rock music for a drummer to follow the melodic instruments rather than the other bass instrument - indeed this is why the bass and drums are referred to as the "rhythm section." ;) . The "KDF" beat is breaking down as Fishman senses the mode mixture happening.

The modulation in this jam starts right at 9:52, when Trey plays a rising riff that then falls to G, and Mike immediately hammers a low G as if to say "yes, let's go to G minor now." The band then gets quieter, bringing everything down in energy and dynamic, and again, Fishman follows. But part of the reason Trey/Mike/Pags changed their timbre was because they knew they were now in a different key. Fishman doesn't change anything drastically, but he does follow the rest of the band in affect and mood, playing more erratically on toms, matching rhythmic accents from Trey and Page with his own cymbal and snare accents, and generally disrupting the previous "KDF" beat further.

So the short answer is yes, Fishman has rhythmic shifts for modulations, sometimes. But it's not for necessarily the same reasons that the rest of the band changes keys. Page switches keys because he knows that he will sound dissonant against Mike and Trey if he doesn't and he doesn't (always) want that to happen. He also modulates because he is in a musical conversation with Mike and Trey, and as they move the conversation, he does too. Fish is having a slightly different relationship to this harmonic conversation. He changes his rhythms, slightly as to not disrupt the groove, because he senses the conversation has moved, although because he is not a participant in the harmonic conversation, he doesn't have to change anything.

Fishman does not use different toms for different keys, though, or to put it more technically, he does not have specific timbres for specific keys. His choice of sound (whether it's cymbals, toms, snares, or blocks/bell) is independent from tonality.

Great analysis! I agree that all the stellar improvisation this summer owes a lot to Fish listening so well. He may not have specific timbres for a given key, but he always responds to changes in the tonality of a song in an exciting way. Most drummers do not have the requisite musicianship to be so sensitive to modulation. But Fish did just as much exciting stuff to push the jams forward this year as the 3 melodic/harmonic players.
In 2014 we saw quite a few jams where every band member would take a turn leading the improvisation. The Portsmouth Chalkdust, for example. This summer we saw a lot more jams, almost every one of the 37 you site, where it's much harder to pick out a clear leader at any time. It seems that after they each learned to lead individually over the last few years, they've figured out a way to listen so closely to each other that the jam moves forward as each player subtly tweaks each note an rhythm. I think this approach helped lead to many of the exciting modulations you cite, or perhaps it was something of a perpetual motion machine of improvisational inspiration.
Again, great analysis and a really fun read!
, comment by Yakul
Yakul @solargarlic78 said:
Well, if that Tweezer starts playing the F note then yes I would call that a modulation (from the scale of Gmajor to Cmajor). My only point is it's much more jarring when you modulate from key/scale to another - like in the Hood versions that go from Dmajor to Dmixo - that C note really hits ya. But my view is that Phish's most common style is to migrate from chord to chord, mode to mode. For example, many, many Ghosts go from A Dorian to D mixo - but the scale/key remains the notes of Gmajor - it's just the mode and tonal center has shifted. That shift sounds really cool (minor to major) but it's less jarring because the key/scale hasn't changed.

@MikeHamad said:
@solargarlic78 said:
A lot of what you're calling modulation is really just migrating from chord to chord in a given key. For example, the 8/1 Tweezer goes from Amin to D to C . All those chords and scales contain the same notes (G A B C D E F#). That's the scale for Gmajor. So they're shifting "modes" but not keys. Dorian to Myxolydian to Lydian. So is this really modulation at all if the 7 note scale never changes?
You can call it migrating from chord to chord too. We're hearing the same thing, just defining terms differently. Also: that pitch collection does change in subtle ways (F vs F# mainly) in a move from A min > D > C (Lydian mode never wants to stick around for long, etc)
Solargarlic, you are expressing my thoughts exactly. Looks like we're the same age, too... Love the Dorian to Mixolydian shift, but my favorite remains the Dorian to Lydian -- LOVE the Lydian mode...
, comment by funky
funky What a wonderful excellent post! I'm learning so much... Would it be too much to ask to post at what times the jams modulate on your list? For those of us with a less trained ear....
, comment by toddshockley
toddshockley As a non-musician, I enjoy learning about these things and value the clarifications about what my ear is hearing.
, comment by phishydaze
phishydaze Amazing post. I love learning about this kind of stuff. Looking forward to part 2
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @solargarlic78 said:
Well, if that Tweezer starts playing the F note then yes I would call that a modulation (from the scale of Gmajor to Cmajor). My only point is it's much more jarring when you modulate from key/scale to another - like in the Hood versions that go from Dmajor to Dmixo - that C note really hits ya. But my view is that Phish's most common style is to migrate from chord to chord, mode to mode. For example, many, many Ghosts go from A Dorian to D mixo - but the scale/key remains the notes of Gmajor - it's just the mode and tonal center has shifted. That shift sounds really cool (minor to major) but it's less jarring because the key/scale hasn't changed.
Yes, but what's significantly different here is what Mike and Page are doing. Trey might just be reorienting the tonic but playing the same pitch collection. Mike, however, is making purposeful movements toward the new tonic using typically tonicizing bass motions: most commonly ^4-^1 but also often ^b7-^1. So when that Ghost jam goes from A dorian to D mixolydian, Mike starts playing a lot of G to D or C to D motion. Page, equally, will often play a lot of IV-I chordal gestures.

It's much more significant, however, when the band modulates to a key that's similar but not the exact same pitch collection. One of my favorite examples of this is the Hampton Tweezer 10/20/13. The jam begins in A (as all Tweezer jams do) and gradually goes through A minor with traces of A dorian (which for all intents and purposes sound the same as A minor). But then during the spacey section, Mike initiates a move to E minor. And it feels like a seismic shift.

Now, E minor is v of A minor (the minor dominant, if you will). But, E minor is also the same pitch collection as A dorian, with only 1 sharp (F#). And it's not even the F# that gets played a lot in the early stages of that jam when they switch, it's the G to E motion that really solidifies E minor.

So here, even though the mode has shifted and the band is playing essentially the same pitch collection, there are huge differences in sound and affect. I think one of the most crucial things to remember when we talk about modulation is that almost always, when Phish modulates, they also change the overall affect/mood/feel/whatever you want to call it of the music. They respond to harmonic changes with corresponding changes in style, rhythm, timbre, and feel, and that's what really causes us to "feel" the jam changing. Often it's as simple as Page switching keyboards from piano to Rhodes, Trey adding or subtracting an effects pedal or moving from noodling solo to repetitive groove-based jamming, or as I mentioned in my earlier post, Fishman switching the beat ever so slightly.
, comment by solargarlic78
solargarlic78 @smoothatonalsnd said:
@solargarlic78 said:
Well, if that Tweezer starts playing the F note then yes I would call that a modulation (from the scale of Gmajor to Cmajor). My only point is it's much more jarring when you modulate from key/scale to another - like in the Hood versions that go from Dmajor to Dmixo - that C note really hits ya. But my view is that Phish's most common style is to migrate from chord to chord, mode to mode. For example, many, many Ghosts go from A Dorian to D mixo - but the scale/key remains the notes of Gmajor - it's just the mode and tonal center has shifted. That shift sounds really cool (minor to major) but it's less jarring because the key/scale hasn't changed.
Yes, but what's significantly different here is what Mike and Page are doing. Trey might just be reorienting the tonic but playing the same pitch collection. Mike, however, is making purposeful movements toward the new tonic using typically tonicizing bass motions: most commonly ^4-^1 but also often ^b7-^1. So when that Ghost jam goes from A dorian to D mixolydian, Mike starts playing a lot of G to D or C to D motion. Page, equally, will often play a lot of IV-I chordal gestures.

It's much more significant, however, when the band modulates to a key that's similar but not the exact same pitch collection. One of my favorite examples of this is the Hampton Tweezer 10/20/13. The jam begins in A (as all Tweezer jams do) and gradually goes through A minor with traces of A dorian (which for all intents and purposes sound the same as A minor). But then during the spacey section, Mike initiates a move to E minor. And it feels like a seismic shift.

Now, E minor is v of A minor (the minor dominant, if you will). But, E minor is also the same pitch collection as A dorian, with only 1 sharp (F#). And it's not even the F# that gets played a lot in the early stages of that jam when they switch, it's the G to E motion that really solidifies E minor.

So here, even though the mode has shifted and the band is playing essentially the same pitch collection, there are huge differences in sound and affect. I think one of the most crucial things to remember when we talk about modulation is that almost always, when Phish modulates, they also change the overall affect/mood/feel/whatever you want to call it of the music. They respond to harmonic changes with corresponding changes in style, rhythm, timbre, and feel, and that's what really causes us to "feel" the jam changing. Often it's as simple as Page switching keyboards from piano to Rhodes, Trey adding or subtracting an effects pedal or moving from noodling solo to repetitive groove-based jamming, or as I mentioned in my earlier post, Fishman switching the beat ever so slightly.
Yes, absolutely. When they switch chords/modes the feel (and often instruments) shift dramatically. In my Ghost example, you couldn't get a more different feel than the A Dorian dark funk to the bliss D mixolydian.

For what it's worth, most Tweezer jams start in A dorian. Almost all Phish's minor jams are in Dorian - Sand, Ghost, Bowie, Antelope, I could go on (one major exception is Stash). They LOVE Dorian. So, yes, going to Emin from A dorian is the same pitch collection, except now, they are in a E NATURAL minor pitch collection, or Aeolian (without the #6 of Dorian). And, I agree that is going to feel dramatically different.
, comment by BobLoblawsLawBlog
BobLoblawsLawBlog So awesome. Thank you!

It's rather validating to see you explain the theory being executed thus moving the listeners regardless of our understanding of why.
, comment by frankenfunk
frankenfunk Great post! I can't wait to read the other parts
, comment by otfz72
otfz72 This is really fun to read and I think it's awesome that you've analyzed these jams so thoroughly. I do feel inclined to chime in and say that your description of "modulation vs. tonicization" is a bit inaccurate, however. You have the idea right, but in practice tonicization only refers to tonicizing a new pitch for literally as little as one bar, or in many cases even only one beat. For instance every 12 bar blues progression has a tonicization in it when we emphasize the dominant 7th on the one chord and feel that strong pull to the four chord. These moments, referred to as "secondary dominants", are when tonicizations occur. They would be labelled in a harmonic analysis as such "V7/IV" or "V/vi" and verbalized "five or four" or "five of six." These occur routinely in everything from Bach to Taylor Swift and thus the term "tonicization" has been created to give this a name without having to call it a "modulation." A true modulation, when analyzing a Bach fugue for instance, will regularly only last a couple of bars. The middle part of any Mozart movement in Sonata Allegro form functions solely to have fun with modulation and at that point will move from key to key in the course of a few bars. These short diversions would all be labelled as true "modulations" when doing a harmonic analysis, not tonicizations. You said yourself that picking 2 minutes was arbitrary, but I'll offer that it's actually lead to an inaccurate analysis. That Bowie on 8/16 for instance, ABSOLUTELY modulated. (and god it was fucking awesome!) Anyway, just wanted to chime in as phish discussion rarely allows for this level of theory nerdom. I appreciate the opportunity for discussion!
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad @otfz72 said:
This is really fun to read and I think it's awesome that you've analyzed these jams so thoroughly. I do feel inclined to chime in and say that your description of "modulation vs. tonicization" is a bit inaccurate, however. You have the idea right, but in practice tonicization only refers to tonicizing a new pitch for literally as little as one bar, or in many cases even only one beat. For instance every 12 bar blues progression has a tonicization in it when we emphasize the dominant 7th on the one chord and feel that strong pull to the four chord. These moments, referred to as "secondary dominants", are when tonicizations occur. They would be labelled in a harmonic analysis as such "V7/IV" or "V/vi" and verbalized "five or four" or "five of six." These occur routinely in everything from Bach to Taylor Swift and thus the term "tonicization" has been created to give this a name without having to call it a "modulation." A true modulation, when analyzing a Bach fugue for instance, will regularly only last a couple of bars. The middle part of any Mozart movement in Sonata Allegro form functions solely to have fun with modulation and at that point will move from key to key in the course of a few bars. These short diversions would all be labelled as true "modulations" when doing a harmonic analysis, not tonicizations. You said yourself that picking 2 minutes was arbitrary, but I'll offer that it's actually lead to an inaccurate analysis. That Bowie on 8/16 for instance, ABSOLUTELY modulated. (and god it was fucking awesome!) Anyway, just wanted to chime in as phish discussion rarely allows for this level of theory nerdom. I appreciate the opportunity for discussion!
Thanks for your comments. It's so great to find readers/listeners who can discuss at this high level.

So, I think what you're saying is that I'm not using the terms "tonicization" and "modulation" in the same way you would when undertaking an analysis of Baroque or Classical music, and that's certainly a valid point. I understand what these terms represent in the analysis of classical music (secondary dominants, etc.). I've tried to adapt them as broad concepts that aid in the analysis of improvisational rock, and that turns out not to have a one-to-one relationship. But I think it's essential when you're mapping an interpretive framework onto a new repertoire.

I'm trying to use both terms, tonicization and modulation, in a way that represents "going somewhere else," with the distinction being how long they spend in another key. You could, in a sense, map the point you make about tonicization above (i.e. "tonicizing a new pitch for literally as little as one bar, or in many cases even only one beat" ;) onto "being in a new key for a relatively short period of time," as I think is true of the examples I've given above.

"Modulation," then, becomes "being in a new key on a semi-permanent basis," which maps onto what you said about Bach fugues ("only last a few bars" ;) or Mozart ("the course of a few bars" ;) . Within what I've called modulation, I've determined there's a distinction between "structural modulation" (somewhat arbitrarily defined as lasting more than two minutes) and "last-minute swerves" (key changes at the end of jams that set up segues into new songs, and don't seem to serve any other purpose, i.e. new jamming spaces).

I'm not sure I agree that the two-minute time limit is misleading. I really do believe there's a difference between the two groups, structural MODs and last-minute swerves, and I think the jams in each group do share properties that are unique to the group. Practically speaking, it was also a way of narrowing a batch of about 50 jams down to the 37 that I discuss in this paper, which is a slightly more manageable serving size. But your point is well-taken, namely that using terms designed for the analysis of the classical music repertoire don't necessarily translate exactly to a new body of music.

My preference, really, is to never have to use the term "modulation." When I'm discussing this casually with friends or whatever, I usually just say, "That jam went from X to Y," rather than "that jam modulated from X to Y." Using tonicization versus modulation is me trying to account for how long the band spends time in the new key(s).
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad Also: I have no idea why those emojis showed up in my last comment. I wasn't trying to wink at anyone.
, comment by otfz72
otfz72 Haha! Emojis gone rogue!

"I'm not using the terms "tonicization" and "modulation" in the same way you would when undertaking an analysis of Baroque or Classical music"

Well, yes and no. They aren't just terms for analyzing baroque or classical music (hence my Taylor Swift nod). "Waste" has a V/IV tonicization. It's in D, we get a D7, which "tonicizes" the following G. That's just what a tonicization is, plain and simple, a fancy term for when a secondary dominant happens. However, modulations of the sort I'm describing are certainly almost exclusive to "classical" music styles. So I think I see what you're getting at, you kinda used it like a ratio. In a style of music (baroque for instance) where key changes happen very quickly and frequently, modulation and tonicization mean one thing, but in a style of music where one key is vamped in for sometimes 15 minutes, the usage of those terms then becomes adapted to account for longer spans of time as well. I can get behind this. :) (emoji intended)
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