[Smt-talk] Early Tritone Sub - correction

ericlwen at aol.com ericlwen at aol.com
Thu May 28 05:35:41 PDT 2009

I meant Brahms's op.117, no.2, not op.177, no.2. (Although I'm sure I'd love Brahms's op.177, no.2, composed up in heaven by now...)

Eric Wen

-----Original Message-----
From: Dmitri Tymoczko <dmitri at Princeton.EDU>
To: smt-talk Talk <smt-talk at societymusictheory.org>
Sent: Tue, 26 May 2009 9:53 pm
Subject: [Smt-talk] Early Tritone Sub

 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)





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