How does this augmented chord fit in?

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Please help me understand what's going on with the chord progression in A Violent Yet Flammable World by Au Revoir Simone, an awesome song that was played in Twin Peaks: The Return: 



The arpeggiated bit seems to me to sketch out G#m--E--B--Eb+. So changing the key to something less capo-ey for the ease of my primitive guitar player's brain, I get Em--C--G--B+. 

My question is, how does the augmented chord fit into that progression? Should I think of the non-capo-ey version as being in C major and going iii--I--V--vii? Or should I think of it as being in E minor and going i--VI--III--III-with-an-extension-of-some-sort? Or am I thinking about this in completely the wrong way because of not being a keyboard player and not knowing much about how music works?

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  • RolandRoland Frets: 2017
    You might find it easier looking at the individual notes. The note which augments B+ is g. G is a common note across all four chords, like a drone note. The ear latches onto this common note, and notices how the other notes dance around it.
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 340
    The thing is that it isn't really a chord *progression*, as such. It's just an endless loop of four chords that never firmly establishes a key because there are no cadences. With no wider context it might equally well be in two or three different keys. If you hear the last chord as a substitute for a B major chord then E minor might be the tonic. To my ears the fourth chord 'should' be D major, especially since the G major is in second inversion, but it never actually goes to the D.
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  • I think you could substitute G+ instead?
    My trading feedback

    is it crazy how saying sentences backwards creates backwards sentences saying how crazy it is?

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  • vizviz Frets: 4950
    edited February 27
    Ok the piece is obviously in g# minor, and it’s a simple repeating i-VI-III-V progression with a perfect V-i cadence at the end. The nuance is that on the V, the violinists are playing the minor 6th in place of the 5th. You can think of it as an augmented 5th if you like, and you can write it V+ or Eb+ (Or actually D#+), but it’s not really an augmented 5th, it’s just a minor 6th. You can even think of it as a sort of sus 6th - your mind wants it to be pulled down to a 5th, just like a sus 4 would want to be pulled down to a major 3rd. You could even play it like that - over the D# chord you could play a B, then slide down to an A#, before the chord resolved to the g# minor again. In fact the vocalist does that at 1:36 and again in the following verse. 

    What’s happening is that the first 3 chords are in natural minor, but the V chord is based on a major dominant chord - in other words it has a major 3rd - but the scale it’s based on also has a minor 6th. By rights, staying purely diatonic, it ‘ought’ to be a minor v chord with a minor 3rd, because all minor modes have a minor v chord. However often in music the V chord in a minor key is ‘allowed’ to have its 3rd raised to a major 3rd to create a better resolution back to the tonic - in this case a G (or F##), leading up to the g# minor. The major 3rd in the V acts as a leading note up to the tonic. 

    (This is what harmonic minor and melodic minor scales do. They enable the V chord to have a major 3rd. Over the V, the scale that the chord is drawing from is the 5th mode of either the harmonic or melodic minors, ”phrygian dominant” or “mixolydian b6” respectively. You can’t tell which because the 2nd note is absent, but that doesn’t matter, the important thing is that both have a major 3rd.)

    So that explaines the major 3rd in the D# chord. What about the minor 6th? Well all that’s happening is that the composer has chosen to play an D#m6 chord instead of an D# or an D#7 chord. The minor 6th note is in the phrygian dominant and mixolydian b6 scales (it’s the B - in fact it’s the 3rd degree of the tonic and what makes the whole piece a minor piece. It’s even in the name, mixolydian b6. And an alternative name for phrygian dominant is the mixolydian b9 b13 (the b13 is a b6)). 

    Anyway, so although it sounds like stacked major 3rds (and hence why G+, B+ and D#+ all work as three major 3rds fit perfectly in an octave), it’s really a minor 6th . Now, if the III chord were actually B D# F##, that’d be a III+

    (the same chord crops up in jazz, this time the V chord is the “altered chord”, based on the super locrian scale - another mode of melodic minor - which also has a major 3rd (actually a diminished 4th) and a minor 6th. It has the same notes and is a single stacked major 3rd away from the mixolydian b6).  
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  • Thanks everyone for these explanations - @viz I like what I can follow of yours for confirming that i-VI-III-something weird is roughly what's going on...
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  • vizviz Frets: 4950
    Thanks everyone for these explanations - @viz I like what I can follow of yours for confirming that i-VI-III-something weird is roughly what's going on...
    You say it much more efficiently than I!
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 340
    @viz, it's interesting that you are so definite about it being in the minor key and the last chord being a variant on the dominant. Is there room in your opinion for it to be interpreted in other ways?

    I get your analysis from a theoretical perspective but my ears don't really *hear* the fourth chord as being a dominant or as forming a cadence. I'm not hearing the sort of drive back to the i chord that a cadence should deliver. If anything I find it more natural to hear the first chord as the ii and the last chord as a wonky and unsatisfying substitute for I.
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 340
    Sorry, misplaced comma there, I didn't mean to imply that your opinion was inflexible! I meant to write: in your opinion, is there room for it to be interpreted in other ways?
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  • vizviz Frets: 4950
    Stuckfast said:
    @viz, it's interesting that you are so definite about it being in the minor key and the last chord being a variant on the dominant. Is there room in your opinion for it to be interpreted in other ways?

    No. :)

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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 340
    Fair enough!
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  • PhibTreMorPhibTreMor Frets: 4
    Thanks for this and for reminding me I need to watch and listen to The Return again (and again)  The soundtrack is immense!  Fabulous thread!!
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