I feel I am missing something here.
July 2, 2006 8:42 AM   Subscribe

In the song Steely Dan song Your Gold Teeth the lines 'Even Cathy Berberian knows There's one roulade she can't sing' are followed by a single flat note on the keyboard.I am familiar with CB and a roulade but that flat note is driving me to distraction.Why is it there?I feel The Dan are sniggering behind their hands and I am not in on the joke.
posted by Dr.Pill to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm betting you (like me) have already Googled it and found nothing (but a HUGE number of lyrics sites). So - why not ask them? From the contact page on their official website:
"I'd like to address an email to Steely Dan"

OK: Since your message is not about about "press contacts, bookings, publicity, representation, credentials, production, scheduling, approvals, passes, interviews, auditions, distribution, clearances, tickets, agreements, performances, products, charities, project development, publishing ... or any other professional or administrative function" [because we know you read that item earlier on this page], you can use this link. You may also wish to visit the solo websites for Donald Fagen and Walter Becker to explore contact options which may be provided there.
They might chuck your message in the bitbucket, or... who knows? If it's bugging you this badly, go for it!
posted by hangashore at 9:25 AM on July 2, 2006

Ah, my favourite Steely Dan track from my favourite Steely Dan CD. Good luck with finding a definitive explanation. Steely Dan's music and lyrics are peppered with oddities like this.
posted by Neiltupper at 9:29 AM on July 2, 2006

I think it's just a musical joke for the ear.
posted by wsg at 10:13 AM on July 2, 2006

One of my favorite moments in all of Dandom. I played this song back in days of yore, at my music school recital, and, if I do say so myself, I transcribed the shit out of it. The note itself is a G-flat, and it is played over an A-flat major seven chord - thus creating a huge clash, 'cuz the A-flat chord has a G-natural in it. Changing (or for that matter, creating ambiguity around) the seventh degree of a chord creates maximum instability, harmonically speaking - second only the blurring the third, I'd say.

That said, I'm not sure WHY Cathy what's-her-name can't sing that one note, or how it pertains to gold teeth, or the tobacco they grow in Peking, etc. When it comes to obscure lyrics, Fagen and Becker have it down.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:35 AM on July 2, 2006

A possible explanation is that Cathy Berberian sang a lot of very avant-garde music, the sort of thing that might include the "maximum instability" harmony fingers_of_fire mentions.

Sort of like, "even Superman knows there's one building he can't leap at a single bound," i.e., everyone's ability is finite.

Just a guess, folks.
posted by La Cieca at 10:57 AM on July 2, 2006

I'm with La Cieca—CB is famous for being able to sing difficult passages.

I'm Dr. Wu and I approved this question.

Are you crazy? are you high?

posted by languagehat at 12:20 PM on July 2, 2006

I also think that La Cieca has it right. Little musical jokes like that are pretty much par for the course for Steely Dan - one of the reasons I love 'em.
posted by Dr. Wu at 1:22 PM on July 2, 2006

A roulade, according to my computer's dictionary, is
2. a florid passage of runs in classical music for a virtuoso singer, esp. one sung to one syllable.
So the note in question isn't that roulade, although who knows whether Don or Walt didn't mean it to stand for it. It's played so egregiously - it's not Don's Rhodes, it's some other instrument - that I wonder if they didn't get in an argument over whether to incorporate it into the chord voicing right at that point in the song, and this was how it shook out.

I feel The Dan are sniggering behind their hands and I am not in on the joke.

Hey man, any world that you're welcome to.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:00 PM on July 2, 2006

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