The analysis of classical music involves, in many cases, following the
repetition and variation of certain basic two- or three-note patterns, such
as the “fourth.” The riff that begins “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” excerpted
on this sound bite, contains two rising fourths: one from F to B-flat, and
one from A-flat to D-flat. The B-flat and A-flat together from a “major
second” interval, what Downes refers to as a “falling second.” Fourths and
seconds appear all over “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” When he sings “Load up
on guns and bring your friends,” Kurt Cobain’s voice first covers a rising
third and then a rising second, covering a fourth overall; he then plunges
down a sixth, then back up to the F for a descent of a fourth, and
eventually another fall of a fourth down to G. The refrain focus on the
falling major second first heard in the bass riff.

Return to Part Four of “Nothing’s Going to Happen”