[Smt-talk] Early Tritone Sub

Dmitri Tymoczko dmitri at Princeton.EDU
Tue May 26 18:53:13 PDT 2009

I asked this question over on the SMT-Jazz list, but didn't get a  
really clear answer, so I thought I'd throw it out to the larger group:

What's the earliest example of a popular-music tritone substitution?   
That is: a dominant seventh chord (possibly with additional notes) on  
bII in a context where we'd expect V7?  I can find two from 1924,  
both in Gershwin.  There's one in Rhapsody in Blue (in the E major  
love theme) and another in bar 3 of the intro to Somebody Loves Me.   
(Blue Monday has a few hints of a tritone substitution, but no  
smoking gun.)  Can anyone think of earlier examples?

There are lots of classical examples, I know, going back to Schubert  
if not before.  I'm looking for something from the popular rep.,  
broadly construed.  Ragtime, stride piano, Tin Pan Alley, Jelly Roll  
Morton, Zez Confrey, Whiteman, even Victor Herbert operettas, would  
all qualify.

One reason this is interesting is that there are a number of musical  
devices that are commonly associated with bebop -- tritone  
substitution, the "lydian dominant" scale -- but which may appear  
first in the "symphonic jazz" tradition.  If this were true, it would  
complicate some standard jazz-history narratives.


Dmitri Tymoczko
Associate Professor of Music
310 Woolworth Center
Princeton, NJ 08544-1007
(609) 258-4255 (ph), (609) 258-6793 (fax)

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20090526/07b3d8bb/attachment-0002.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list