Modal Unravelling

I have been hard at work on my version of Björk’s “Unravel.” Like I said in the previous post, I was drawn to the unfolding of the mode over time. To draw this out, I added layers of my voice gradually outlining the two major chords in the piece (Bb6 and C6), with saxophones playing the mode at the start. Currently, there are no digital effects added. Instead of using reverb, I tracked each vocal part three times. For the second take, I used a Shure SM-58 and my standard M-Audio Nova simultaneously. I found the SM-58 to have a more ‘direct’ tone, which helped give the sound a little more definition.

These tracks will serve as the backbone of my arrangement. I’m still working on blending the alto sax and clarinet for the melody, and I plan on doing some modal improvisation after the first statement of the melody. I’m going to be away from home for the next week and a half, so the finish will have to wait. But I think it will be a nice companion piece to my “Unison” cover. Hmm…maybe they will bookend my next Christmas gift album?

Bjork’s Unravel

In anticipation of Björk’s new album coming out in October, I have been revisiting her albums. One song that sticks out to me is “Unravel” off of Homogenic. It is a companion piece to “Unison” in that they both use the same mode (Lydian) and basic chord progression (I-II-(vii)-I). While this is taken to a grand scale in “Unison,” Björk keeps it simple here.

The song’s intro is a gradual unfolding of the harmonic material. It begins with the tonic (C) moving to the second scale step (D). The vocal improvisations introduce the other notes of the scale: D-E-D-C-B; D-E-F#-G. The final note (A) comes from the synth pad after the first vocal run.

The melody hovers around the fifth of the mode (G), which lends it a “floating” quality. As this is the root of the related major scale, it is also established as a strong tonal center. Without the accompaniment, one would think the song to be set in G major; those pesky C major chords keep it from going that way, though. It’s almost as if a melody originally composed in G major was grafted onto a chord progression in C Lydian.

I’m thinking of creating an instrumental version that accentuates the song’s process of ‘unraveling’ a tonality. If I use different instruments in the same range, I think I can bring out the tension between the Lydian mode and the major scale. It might be a time to mess around with Match EQ in Logic. It’s possible to blend their harmonic content to make a saxophone sound a little more like a clarinet, for instance.

“Unravel” is one of Björk’s most beautiful songs, one that reminds us that love is a process, not something you obtain and automatically have forever.