06.01.2008

Alias Ends in B-flat Major

Posted by AJ Harbison at 12:10 am

I used to watch the TV show Alias on a weekly basis, but that weekly routine was interrupted by going off to college, where I lived in a dorm and had no TV reception. I recently watched the final season (Season 5) in its entirety on DVD with some friends–the first time I’d seen it. The series finale, “All The Time In The World,” was more or less satisfying in terms of storyline resolutions, etc. I certainly enjoyed it. And the musical end of the series was appropriate, to my mind: a B-flat major chord in the strings, with the third on top. When you think about it, that’s the only way you could really end a dramatic series–a minor chord wouldn’t fit with the story’s “happy ending,” and anything other than the third on top would be less fulfilling. The only other possibility I envision would be ending on a unison, which would be satisfying but not as rich-feeling (for obvious harmonic reasons). I enjoyed the plagal cadence, as well: an E-flat major chord (I think also with the third on top) preceded the final chord.

My friends and I watched all the bonus features on the DVD, one of which (the most interesting to me, apart from the blooper reel) was “Heightening the Drama: The Music of Alias.” The composer for the entire series was Michael Giacchino, who was tapped by J.J. Abrams (Alias’ creator and executive producer) to score his show after being impressed with Giacchino’s score for the video game Medal of Honor. In the interviews, Giacchino talked about how the music for Alias in the beginning used heavy techno beats over orchestral scoring, but as the series became more about character development as opposed to simply action, the scoring developed as well. By the end of the series (as was in evidence in the Season 5 episodes I watched), the score was almost exclusively orchestral. And his orchestra was an interesting one: a normal-sized string section, four horns, bassoon, alto flute, and percussion. Minimal, but used to striking effect. I like the idea of a self-imposed limit on one’s palette of colors; in some ways it makes things simpler because there are fewer options, but in other ways I imagine it makes things more difficult by forcing one to use only what one has to express all one’s ideas. I’ll have to try it someday.

(I have to confess that I was pretty proud of the whole knowing-it-was-B-flat thing. I announced to my friends that it was a B-flat major chord–they didn’t care, of course–and when we rewound it briefly to watch the final scene again, I sang the B-flat and ran over to the other room to check it on my friend’s keyboard. And I was right.)

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Comments

  1. Gravatar

    Ryan Fleming on 06.02.2008

    Wow! I am impressed your ability to pick out the Bb chord. I wish I had perfect pitch and even tried training my ear at one time, but relative pitch is what I will have to live with (good enough for me).

    But I agree with you in that a major chord with the third on top is totally appropriate for a happy ending. A regular major chord with the root on top will not cut it for a “happy” feeling. That only leaves resolution in my opinion. Just my thoughts regarding this musical ending.

    -Ryan

  2. Gravatar

    Idhrendur on 06.02.2008

    I’m just proud of myself for understanding you. Though you ARE near the limits of my understanding.

  3. Gravatar

    Mike Morabito on 06.04.2008

    Yeah, I’m at my limits of understanding. I can’t hear the music that your talking about, but I think I get a sense of it from the context.

    I thought this was the best line of the post:
    I like the idea of a self-imposed limit on one’s palette of colors. I love the relationship that you connected from music to another artistic medium paint. Very cool.

  4. Gravatar

    Anonymous on 06.06.2008

    I was there… my TV hosted the show, my couch rested you, and my keyboard supported your note obsession… yet no mention of me… and yet, there was a rumor that was suppose to be mentioned. I dare say YOU started that rumor. I shall remain nameless in this message since I am nameless to my friend…

    weep *

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