It's been a while since I have done an analysis. A few people have asked about Villa-Lobos Etude No. 1 so I thought I would give it a shot. Download the PDF at the end of this article. My analysis reduces the texture to three essential voices for the most part which I believe clearly shows the voice-leading and harmony. I used a few more voices before the final cadence in order to show the resolution of the augmented sixth chord as well as showing the common tone E in the soprano. Let's go through it bar by bar. Since the work is still under copyright I am unable to include the full score but it should be easy to follow along with your published edition.

The piece is loosely in three sections in the key of E minor;

Section 1, measures 1-10. Basically all functional harmony with mainly parallel tenths between the outer two voices supporting an ascending soprano beginning on a G and rising a sixth to the tonic E (shown with dotted slurs). The E is an eleventh over the bass (B) in measure 9 resolving to a tenth in measure 11 (4-3 suspension).

Section 2, measures 11-22. Chromatically descending tritones over an E bass spanning the octave beginning on the high E, which we reached in the first section, and ending on the E an octave lower in measure 22.

Section 3, measures 23-33. Back to functional harmony comprised basically of a drawn out cadence V/V to V to I with a few interesting things in between like the Italian augmented sixth chord for example in measure 30 along with the plagal cadence afterthought (iv-I) with the final major tonic chord containing the added sixth. I wanted to show that the tonic tone E with its leading-tone (mm. 27-28) ties the harmony of the final section together so I put it in the soprano so you would see and hear it.

It was interesting to me to sing or play the soprano voice in the reduction as you listen to a recording of this etude. This makes the underlying voice-leading very easy to hear.

A few interesting features to note:

The non-functional passing chord in measure 8 which spells an Em7(b5)(11) but clearly works as a passing harmony as the bass ascends chromatically from the subdominant to the dominant (A-Bb-B). I have seen this chord in some jazz charts written as A7(b9)(sus4). It's a great sound that Villa-Lobos seems to enjoy and seems quite common in Brazilian music.

The common-tone (CT) diminished seventh chord in measure 22 which ends the descending tritone passage and brings us back to tonic with its resolution in measure 23.

The C#m7(b5)(11) in measure 26 is that same sound that appeared earlier in measure 8. This time I hear it as a #vi half-diminished seventh in the context of melodic minor voice-leading (C#-D#-E).

As mentioned earlier, the beautiful added sixth final tonic chord also very common in jazz and Brazilian music.

As usual I hope you found this interesting and please let me know your thoughts on this famous study by one of our best known composers for the guitar. I wish you the best in 2015!

Click here to securely purchase and download a PDF of the complete analysis for $2.00


February 15, 2015 @01:05 pm
Vagelis Vlavianos
That is an apposite analysis! I think that emphasis should be given to the V7 - iim7(b5) relationship in the measures #25-26.
January 03, 2015 @02:50 am
Tony Hyman
Whoops sorry folks I forgot to to state the obvious regarding the Cycle of 4ths Bars 12-23.In order to understand one must bare in mind that the root is "implied" , meaning that it is not actually written into the harmony but forms part of he , what Sor terms the Grand Chrord.It still gets mentioned in absantia as it were. Take bar 13 for instance .There is no root a written but it still gets called a A7b9.Now with a bit of magic and scheming we see the Bb as the b9 .The Db is enharmonically analogous (same) as C#. Next we have a 7th G nat as written and of course the 5th (dominant) E .This same reading into and bending process works throughout the cycle with a bit of imagination.One can build the dim 7th on any one of the notes mentioned with the exeption of the root HVL leaves out the root in the 7thb9 eg Bar 12 also 13 where the F is ommitted,nevertheless we have a F7b9 and the D# being unharmonicaly analogous to Eb, the 7th in F7. Whether HVL actually planned it theorectically this way I can't say.But I would stick my neck out and say it sounded pretty cool to him and He just jammed away with that bottom E just peddling merrily through as it tasted good to his ears rgardless of Institional Harmonic Rules.He might well have been inspired by European works, but He was a real My Way Man according to this Wiki referance.I am conviced that one understands a peace better if we know where the composer is coming.This would apply to all the arts I Talk about hogging a thread. I think Ive had my share.
January 02, 2015 @08:32 pm
Larry McDonald
That non-functional passing chord could have been conceived as some kind of an A# French 6 derivative. (Think of the D as a C doublesharp). Of course it "resolves" non-traditionally, but I think the ascending chromatic bass line is powerful enough to make all this work. Clever writing, IMO.
January 02, 2015 @02:25 pm
Tony Hyman
Great workJohn.Yes this has to be a perfect practical example of understanding the function of the 7b9 and the Dimished Chord .We learn that they are exactly the same but have various names depending on position. Villa Lobos gives us a quick theorectical crash course through bars 12-23.Notice how the brocken chords move in a perfect cycle ot 4ths through each section.Bar 12 E7b9 =G# dim = Bdim (E G# B) to bar 13 A7b9 = C#gim = Edim (A C# E). Bar 14 D7b9 = F#dim= Adim (D F# A) on and on to Bar 23. Mel Bay points this little trick out in his Quartal Harmonies and explains that a quick way to remember the alternatives as far as the dimished chords go is to take the Major triad letters .Thus as shown in the HVL example F7b9 .Think of the Chord of F and bingo we have F7b9 same as A dim same as Cdim.(F A C) So instead have getting all bogged down trying to remember all the different dim chords when reading , just give it this one size fits all.If one actually writes the alternatives under the notes we see a perfect pattern emerging merely by "slading" ie shifting down in semitones with same finging as written. The Italian 6th Bar 31 could also be a C maj 7 aug 6, I think John. Athough it would sound pretty grotty if played stacked but nice in brocken form. That should shake the holiday cobwebs off my mind.Cheers John.

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