I’m now learning an amazingly cool bit of music by AIR called La Femme D’Argent from their album Moon Safari; for the uninitiated, AIR is a French music duo, consisting of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel. The name AIR is a backronym for ‘Amour, Imagination, Rêve’ (Wiki). I think they make quite unique music and really know how to write to affect mood and set atmosphere.
The entire piece revolves around a single chord sequence and a catchy rhythm: that’s it; simplicity is typical of all AIR pieces, including a song in which almost the only lyrics are ‘surfing on a rocket’! As always, there’s also quite a bit of ad lib, which if you listen to recordings of them performing is truly masterful and always perfectly in keeping with the atmosphere of the piece.
The chord sequence is not starkly unusual in its own right, going B, Bm7, F#m, E, but is repeated every two (4/4) bars, setting a harmonic structure which underlies the entirety of the piece, with an accompanying base (base guitar in recording) drumming out the catchy rhythm. The top line (there are in total 3 lines), played by some electronic instrument which I don’t recognise (‘Electric Piano’ in my piano part) is where all the ad-libbing happens in between some awesomely complicated rhythmical patterns.
Apparently, unbeknownst to many, AIR pieces are used as background music to a large number of TV programmes and films, including The Virgin Suicides – so they’re surprisingly important despite their apparent lack of prominence!