Procession

Composer: Brian May
Meter: 3/4
Key: (g-minor), F-major, (d-minor), C-major, G-major, (D-major)
Form:

Intro | First Half | Second Half |...(intro of Father To Son)

The influence of Classical music this time is quite on the surface. The album opener "Procession" is a short but lovely instrumental composition by Brian, could be best described best as a stylized Baroque (or pre-Classical) piece. It may disappoint you, but for many reasons "Procession" cannot be considered a "proper" Baroque piece of music. The tonal ambiguity during the big part of the piece, the chord streams, and the open ending (i.e. dominant not resolved to the tonic) break rules of the Baroque era. (BTW, Baroque/Classical era composers sometimes also broke some rules). In spite of every such violation "Procession" sounds quite catchy and deceptively Baroquesque.

The idea of pseudo-Classic pieces has a rich tradition in the genre of progressive rock, not really this type though. Later on Brian May recorded two more orchestra-to-guitar arrangements covering the well known traditional tunes "God Save The Queen" (1975) and the "Wedding March" (1980).

The arrangement of Procession is built out of blocks of guitar harmonies and occasional bass-line plus the rhythmical ostinato backing (see also "We Will Rocl You"). The harmony blocks are articlulated by pauses and distinctive stereo mixing. The left channel is the leader, while the right channel fills the pauses with harmonies or bass-lines. The scheme of the blocks:

 

   bars and beats: 1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..9..0..1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..9..0..1..2.
           treble:          AAA__BBBBBB_DD__DD_DDDDDD_____E_EEE___GGGGG___ II__KKKK___
baritone and bass:                    CCC__CC__CCCCCC_____     FFFF__  HHHH__JJJJJJ___  

m.1-13: First Half,
m.14-22 : Second Half,

All the treble harmony blocks are three-parted (more than three tracks, though). Block C is bass-line, F and H are four-part harmonies, J is a combination of bass and three part harmony. Most of the treble harmonies are ascending, while "baritone" blocks are usually descending. Micro-crescendo is applied in each "bass" chord and single note.
The piece, except the ostinato backing rhythm, is completely acyclic. Note how a short number like this can go along with four-five keys step by step along the circle of fifths (from two flats to two sharps).

Intro
It consists of three iterations of a one-measure rhythm pattern that will keep playing throughout (almost) the whole track. The damp drum-sound is reminiscent of what is introducing the legendary Pink Floyd album Dark Side Of The Moon (1973).

First Half
Ten measures belong here. The first measure features the same rhythmic pattern as the backing. Later the lead rhythm is much lousely tied to the downbeats of the backing rhythm. Most of the time the top part of the treble harmonies can be considered the lead melody; sometimes (e.g. in 4th and 5th measure) the lower parts take over the lead. The harmonic functions are very hard to figure out; still:

m.4
built-in tune and bass:   Bb A  F  E      C B A G D  A  D...
 | Gm D  Gm | -    C | F  Bb    C       | G       D   | Dm...
F: ii VI ii | -    V | I  IV   IV-of-G  | IV-of-D VI  | vi
g:  i V  i...
                C: I | IV V     I       | V...
                          d/D: IV-of-IV | IV      I   | i

The first two measures have a strong favor of g-minor key and provide an archaic touch by this short built-in counterpoint:

   top : G  A Bb 
bottom : Bb D G

Another intersting piece of harmony is a cascaded use of two resolved suspensions in m.7. (see also "Dear Friends" and "Teo Torriate").
In the third and fourth measures we have a chain of fifths and a chain of fourths (it was something to avoid in pre-Romantic Classical music), both starting from C next to each other with the latter acting like a so-called "double plagal cadence" of the key D-major or of d-minor with a Pickardy third ending. I've transcribed this part in F (the relative minor key is d), but the tonality is weak and thus doesn't last:

m.8 
  | Dm    |   Bb     |  G    C | F Gsus4 (G7) Am | G5    | -    |
F: vi         IV     V-of-V  V | I  V-of-V    iii| ii...
d: i          VI...
                     C: V    I | IV  V        vi | V     | -    |
                                           G: ii | I     | -    |

The G>C progression introduces the key of C, but the section ends on G5 chord which gets a strong tonic flavor. The way we arrive at G5 is not very Baroque due to the parallel-fifth motion. Note that changing G7 to Bm (omitting the sustained G in the bass and using Gb instead of F) resulted in a non-Baroque downward chord stream with four steps of parallel fifths. The phrase ending on an open fifth chord is another archaic touch (Renaissance). Measures (4-)5-7 feature ascending chromatic motion.

Second Half

During the second half (nine measures) of the song the tonal ambiguity persists even though the first bars (m14-15) establish a strong G-Major tonality ( I > IV > V > I see also m.5-6). M.19 and m.21bars feature non-baroqesque parallel fifths (built in the chord streams of Am>Bm>C and C>D>Em).  Another non-Baroque element is the open ending on the dominant D chord. The "plagal cadence" of the key of D (i.e.: G>D) somehow saves the piece from sounding completely non-resolved.

m.14
  |G  C  | D  G   |          C9>8 Bdim b2>1 C | C       | :treble
  |      |       D| G  G5/7  C |              |    G C  | :bass
G:|I  IV | V  I  V| I (V/IV) IV| "V/IV"    IV |    I IV |
                 C: V   -    I |  viidim    I |    V I  |

  |         Am Bm C |         | C D Em C D Em G Am Bm | D    | :treble
  | G/B Am          | E5/7 Am | A1     E1     G       | D    | :bass
G:| I   ii ii iii IV| V/ii ii |(ii)   (vi)    I       | V    |
C:| V   vi...                         D:      IV      | I    |

From m.19 the lead melody changes to triplet-mode. The backing rhythm pattern stops at the second beat of the 22nd measure. The special effect at the end musically leads into the next song: Father To Son.