[Smt-talk] a la mode

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 2 15:24:02 PST 2013

Dear Daniel,

This "of course" is a tad bit hasty here, to say the least. Nothing in this issue is "of course." Tetrachord, pentachord, heptachord--do not imply dia--. Tetrachord--four strings, nothing else. Trichord--three strings. Where is the dia--? And what does this dia- in this case mean? An easy question? Hmmm...(Raised eyebrow).

My two cents: dia-- means passing through the musical space by step. An interesting phenomenon--diatonic step. It effaces the previous tones. When one sings Re after Do, the Do is erased. When one takes Mi after that Re, the Re is erased. Stepwise motion disorients the singer in a musical space. It works within a Greek diatonic tetrachord (in one out of three: the enharmonic and chromatic have very characteristic intervals, which allows to cling to them and reconstruct the whole system in the short term memory). It does not take a brain surgeon to see that diatonic heptatonic is comprised of two tetrachords (Do, Re, Mi, Fa and Sol, La, Ti, Do--disjoined, or Do, Re, Mi, Fa and Fa, Sol, La, Ti--conjoined). Greeks were not that far from discovering tonality, after all.

In the octatonic, the recursive, self-similar structure allows a singer to immediately build the encompassing structure of the whole. The effect of diatonicity is thus eliminated. I will sing C, D, and Eb and I already know the whole thing. 

In pentatonic, there is a moment of stepwise motion, but since all the steps are the same in size and there are leaps that interrupt stepwise gliding, the diatonicity does not happen, or happens partially. 

As an analogy, I can bring the principle, used in architectural drawing. How to draw a straight line without the help of a ruler? You should un-focus your attention from the writing tip of a pencil and focus, using peripheral vision, on the beginning and the implied end of the line simultaneously. In other words, you should see the reference points, before and after the drawing point. The diatonic, due to its asymmetric structure and the effect of effacement of the melodic step, does not allow to see these two points of reference at the same time, thus creating the form-crystal (by the term of Boris Asafiev) becomes impossible. A singer remains suspended in aural space and this generates huge amount of energy of anticipation, tension and variability of goals, which constitutes the form-process (by Asafiev and Tjulin/Berschadskaya). Ultimately, the two points can be established (the outer notes of the tetrachords, TSDT), but only after the process is
 exhausted. This is tonality.

Best wishes,

Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

On Monday, December 2, 2013 7:24 AM, Daniel Wolf <djwolf at snafu.de> wrote:
"Diatonic" comes, of course, from the diatonic tetrachord genus, the one  
which is composed "through (whole) tones."  The term do not refer at all  
to any "linear coherence, achievable in tonal music", mysterious or  

Ildar Khannanov wrote:

> For example, diatonic is not heptatonic pitch collection. Neither  
> pentatonic, nor octatonic have been honored by Greek root dia--, only  
> the seven-note scale. Dia--, of course, does not have anything to do  
> with the number of notes; rather, it refers to a mysterious linear  
> coherence, achievable in tonal music.

Dr. Daniel James Wolf

djwolf at snafu.de


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