Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And again, because I am a nerd,...

I decided to write down my notes from my Theory and Analysis class from this semester so far.

The section we are working on now is the first wave of new tonalities in the early twentieth century, beginning with Debussy and his Impressionistic works, and into the American experimentalists (Ives, Cowell, Cage). Mostly, this chapter focuses on the materials and techniques of these composers.

No one can fully understand 20th century music without a first look at Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and his influences. His compositional style has its roots in tonal harmonies, but he ventured forth into very new territory, a bridge from the extended tonalities of the 19th century into what many refer to as "atonality". His style is generally referred to as Impressionism after the name given to the art style of Claude Monet and his contemporaries in which there was a profound fascination with color. Debussy expressed this fascination in music through the use of new harmonies, instrumentation and rhythmic devices.

Example: Debussy. "La Soiree Danse Grenade" from Estampes

Scale Materials

1. Diatonic Modes

Part of the innovative use of new scale materials and chord structures was a renewed interest in the church modes, or the diatonic modes. A diatonic mode is a scale built off any note in the diatonic scale, and only containing notes in that diatonic scale.  In the key of C, the diatonic modes are
  • Inonian - C
  • Dorian - D
  • Phrygian - E
Example: Debussy, "Girl with the Flaxen Hair"
  • Lydian - F
  • Mixolydian - G
  • Aeolian - A
  • Locrian - B
2. Pentatonic Scales
  • Any five note scale
  1. Major Pentatonic
  2. Minor Pentatonic
  3. Hirajoshi
  • Many, I am sure, will recognize the Hirajoshi pentatonic because of it's place in a very famous Japanese folk melody, Sakura.
3. Synthetic Scales

A synthetic scale is a scale built by a composer's imagination. These three are very common and have a symmetrical structure.
  • Whole Tone - composed of adjacent major 2nds (Debussy's favorite)
Example: Stravinsky, "Danse russe" from Petrouchka
  • Octatonic - alternating minor and major 2nds
  • Hexatonic - alternating minor 2nds and minor 3rds
 A scale that Debussy favored is the lydian-mixolydian scale, which is  two juxtaposed major-minor seventh chords with roots a whole step apart


Chord Structures

1. Extended Tertian Harmony
  • 9th, 11th, 13th chords
Example: Ravel, "Rigaudon" from Le Tombeau de Couperin

2. Polyharmony
  • polychords - two or more chords from different harmonic areas sounded simultaneously. The elements of a polychord are called chordal units, and a special kind of polychord is known as the split-third chord. This is a major and a minor chord built on the same root sounded simultaneously
  • bitonality/ polytonality - two or more key centers heard at the same time
3. Chord/Scale connections
  • In this new musical language, the aural effect of sonorities is solidified by scale reference, doubling, spacing and their arrangement, rather then traditional tertian harmonies

4. Quartal and Secundal Harmony
  • Quartal harmony - sonority derived from stacked 4ths, and closely tied to quintal harmony, which is stacked 5ths. There is a close relationship to quartal and quintal harmonies, but the aural effect can be quite different.
Example: Hindemith, Flute Sonata, II
  • Secundal Harmony - chordal sonority derived from stacked 2nds. Three or more adjacent pitches in this relationship is referred to as a tone cluster
Example: Cowell, "The Tides of Manaunaun" from Tales of Our Countryside


5. Parallelism
  • Parallel motion of intervals through a scale. Can be chromatic (intervals do not change values) or diatonic (intervals align themselves to the scale)
Examples: Debussy, "Fetes" from Nocturnes
                                    "La Cathedrale engloutie" from Preludes
                  Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra, II

6. Pandiatonicism
- An attempt to equalize all the tones of the diatonic scale, so one one can tell which one is the tonal center

Example: Barber Excursions, III

Rhythm and Meter
  • Hemiola - an interaction between rhythm and meter that implies a 3:2 ratio
  • Asymmetrical meters - irregularly subdivided meters
Example: Adler, Capriccio
  • Composite meter - meters which can be divided into smaller aural meters (usually part of asymmetrical meters)
  • Mixed Meter - rapidly changing meter signatures
  • Displaced Accent - shifting the accent to a weak beat
  • Polyrhythm - Two or more strikingly different rhythms sounded simultaneously 
Example: Stravinsky, "The Shrovetide Fair," from Petrouchka
  • Ametric Music - music without a regular series of recurring pulses
  • Metric Modulation - an immediate change in tempo created by equating a particular note value to another note value, usually located in the next bar
  • Added Value - Rhythmic irregularity created through addition of a note value or rest to a rhythmic figure
Example: Messiaen, "Dance of Fury for Seven Trumpets",  from Quarter for the End of Time
  • Nonretrogradable rhythms - rhythms that are the same played forward or backward
  • Fibonacci sequence - an infinite sequence of numbers in which each new number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two numbers
  • Golden ratio - a proportion of ration 1.618:1, found in nature and in art and mathematics. The golden section is an area about .618 of the way through the piece which is the most balanced for a climax.
  • Polytempo - simultaneous use of two or more strikingly contrasted tempos
  • Ostinato - a musical pattern that is repeated many times in succession
  • Isorhythm - a modern term for a rhythmic technique associated with Medieval motets and masses. Today it combines a repeated rhythmic figure (talea) and a repeated pitch sequence of a different length (color)
  • Tempo Canons - Canons in which individual voices are presented at different tempos

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