[Smt-talk] Tests in Theory - Chords in Tonality versus Chords in a Scale

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 25 00:20:07 PST 2014

Dear Donna,

this is, probably, one the oldest boese Lieder of all in music theory. Categorical separation of melody from harmony is the most common misconception, which circulates mostly among poorly educated musicians (you and I are excluded!). It may seem that an isolated melodic tone can generate energy of linear motion. However, it is not true. 
Tonality did not evolve from the eight modes; it evolved from Greek teaching of harmony, more precisely, from Greek definitions of qualities of the intervals. A good melody is nothing but the realization of harmony. Harmony is the explication and explanation of melody. Bach's primary concern was not to follow the rules of counterpoint, or ruled of figured bass: he harmonized old chants! Even the most ancient chants were harmonized in the course of development of tonal music (see, Dies irae in music of Liszt and Rachmaninoff).  Beethoven's Adagio cantabile from the Pathetique is an epitome of harmony: its inner motion and the logic of linear development is generated by the power of several resolutions of Dominant to Tonic. 

Basso continuo and basso fondamentale do not come from different planets. Basso continue is inscribed into basso fondamentale and depends on it. 

An isolated tone does not generate such power; the quality of an interval does. The chord--a system of intervals--amplifies this energy and makes it sufficient to created large-scale form. 

One of the hapless musicians who fell in the trap of this misconception was Schenker. He tried to "criticize" Rameau; he should worship him instead for the explanation of the agency behind the linear development in tonal music. Rameau did not describe verticalities--he explained the laws of harmony that create both horizontal and vertical dimensions. "Melody--a single part of the texture--is melodious whenever it reflects the beauty of harmony." Schenker confronted Riemann and Rameau with his own, erroneous, understanding of "counterpoint," in his view--a corpus of the "rules of counterpoint." E.g., "the minor seventh resolves in upper voice by step down." However, this it not the rule of counterpoint: it is the rule of harmony that has been used in some techniques of counterpoint. The rules--understanding of qualities and capabilities of the intervals--were realized by ancient Greeks. You would not ascribe "counterpoint" to Aristoxenos!
In this sense, to revise and to rewrite the history of music theory in Europe and to return to the rule of the octave is counterproductive. To replace the laws of harmony with simple concatenation of the chords that "fit" into the scale is a step back and students will never be able to harmonize a melody using their hearing of progression of tonal-harmonic functions, which is, in fact, the logos, or musical meaning. "That logos that nobody understands!"

Best wishes,

Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatoire
solfeggion7 at yahoo.com

On Thursday, January 23, 2014 3:46 PM, Donna Doyle <donnadoyle at att.net> wrote:
Dear Dimitar,

What seems to me to underlie your discussion here is the age-old unanswered question: Which came first--harmony or melody?
As Bartok/Lendvai pointed out, the harmonic is found in the natural world (a single tone's overtones) while the melodic is 
a human impulse dating back to our beginning. 

What we know for sure is that Western tonality developed from the eight mode system of the early middle ages--a melodic system. 
Chromatic inflections arose to accommodate melodic tendencies. When basslines of CPP repertoire move stepwise, they tend to 
use the "melodic" form of the minor scale. This determines a set of chords which you seem to have excluded from your discussion 
and which clarifies the confusion you describe, as it includes not only the aeolian and harmonic sets, but also the Mm IV7 and dim vi, 
both found in the literature when the bass ascends (e. g,, Mozart, K 488, II, mm 5-8).

Rather than lists of chords, a more musical and comprehensive assignment would be to learn Francois Campion's progression, his Rule 
of the Octave (Dragone, Theoria, early '90s). With its ascending and descending forms in both modes, in a musical gestalt, it illustrates 
the chords you describe. Moreover, in one fell swoop, it contains most of the information given in the first third of many harmony texts,
incl the #4 inflection and the Phyrgian cadence (origin of the aug 6s [perhaps the origin of our "French"?]). 

Learning this Rule in several keys on one's instrument, with one's voice, and on paper, even before understanding it fully, gives the 
student not only a satisfying musical experience but also the comprehensive, indeed profound, sense of the working of the tonal system 
that you seem to be attempting to describe. 

Best regards,
Donna Doyle

Aaron Copland School of Music
Queens College
65-30 Kissena Blvd.
Flushing, NY  11367
tele: 718-997-3819
fax:  718-997-3849
email: donna.doyle at qc.cuny.edu
email: donnadoyle at att.net  

On Jan 22, 2014, at 3:40 PM, Ninov, Dimitar N <dn16 at txstate.edu> wrote:

Dear Colleagues,
>Some tests make the students list seven chords in a minor or major key. In my opinion this is wrong and it undermines the ability of the student to conceptualize the term "tonality" differently from the term "scale". While the core of tonality is the tone/chord content derived from the pure diatonic scales, a typical tonality is laid on a larger platform which includes both diatonic and chromatic elements.
>Therefore, "list the seven chords in minor" is a confusing invitation which comes from nowhere and leads nowhere. Yet some authors cannot help making strict tables of seven triads and seven seventh chords in major and minor, ever trimming some important characteristics of tonality. Fortunately, music practice does not match their limited tables, but unfortunately, students do not know that and they are being confused. A sure sign of that confusion is their surprise when they encounter or have to use V or VII from natural minor or, say, IV or II7 from harmonic major. As a result, they do not know how to use the first couple of chords, and, as far as the second couple is concerned - they wait until the third semester to be inaugurated in the special magic world of "modal mixture", which gives them a license to use more than seven chords in major...
>I think that the best way of getting started is to explain to the students that all the triads from the natural modes (Ionian and Aeolian) are legitimate diatonic structures, and none of them has to be excluded from the music of the CCP and from any tonality-table (which has to stay pretty loose and open, anyway). This basic level of tonality is coded into the key signature of any major or minor key. Next, it would be good to explain that a general collection of triads in minor includes (but is not limited to) the seven diatonic triads from natural minor (with no exception!) and the two dominants from harmonic minor. A typical dominant is one which contains the leading tone, but V and VII from the natural minor are used pretty regularly in the CPP, in the capacity of a connecting chord and a tonicizing chord, respectively.
>Similar is the case with major tonality. All the diatonic triads are used with no exception, plus the two harmonic subdominants containing an upper sensitive tone towards the tonic's fifth degree. Thus the Plagal cadence, especially in Romantic music and later, acquires greater tension and drive towards T.
>The above review leaves some 9 triads and 9 seventh chords in each mode that circulate with some regularity in tonal compositions. Of course, the melodic versions and additional crhomaticism yeld additional possibilities, but the starting step has been made. 
>The picture presented above unfolds as soon as you open Rimksy Korsakov's Practical Manual of Harmony. It is presented in an amazingly concise manner and it suggests that modal mixture is as old as tonality, and that it is nonsensical to say or write "because of the flexibility of degrees 6 and 7 in minor, more chords are possible in minor than in major". In fact, the number of possible triads and seven chords is exactly the same in major and minor, taking into account their three basic versions each. However, by completely ignoring this important vertical aspect of modality, some authors keep calling "diatonic" the harmonic and melodic minor and their inherent chords, probably forgetting that these artificial modes yield some genuine chromatic intervals and chords. How can you classify  an augmented triad as a diatonic chord? How about a minor-major seventh chord? Is the augmented second a diatonic interval? The diminished fourth? All of these
 elements, and more, are constit
>uents of the harmonic and melodic scales. Therefore, these are genuine chromatic scales with low degree of chromaticism. R. K. calls them "artificial modes".
>A most astonishing feature in some pedagogical-literary mish-mash is the lack of clear reference between harmonic and melodic minor and modal mixture. 
>Thank you,
>Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
>School of Music
>Texas State University
>601 University Drive
>San Marcos, Texas 78666
>Smt-talk mailing list
>Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org

Smt-talk mailing list
Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20140125/93ae36c7/attachment-0004.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list