[Smt-talk] The Ubiquitous Triad

CARSON FARLEY ccfarley at embarqmail.com
Fri Jul 18 15:16:46 PDT 2014

Considering the fact that a vibrating string produces overtones in the lower partials of a major triad and then a dominant 7th chord it would seem that the ubiquitous triad is present in nature as a law of physics and heard consciously or unconsciously throughout human history as overtones produced in some manner by taught strings, overblown wind/brass instrument partials, or in Pythagoras' case the differing notes of a struck anvil/metallurgy as he passed the blacksmith shop. How to overcome the "ubiquitous" triad? As a composer I believe that the harmonic partials of a single tone are the electrons to any fundamental pitch/atom. For example, a scale can be created by extracting a dominant 7th chord (either tempered or non tempered) from the lower 8 partials of a single tone and then doing the same for another interval pitch and combining the results - C and B for example resulting in the following pitches: B , C , D# , E , F# , G , A ,and Bb (or the normal form of A , Bb , B , C , D# , E , F# , G ). Hindemith explores the importance and gravity of partials and overtones as compositional material and so do other 20th century theorists like Mathieu in "Harmonic Experience." The way to get away from/avoid the "ubiquitous" triad is to approach any individual tone as it's own microcosm of overtone/partial electrons and avoid using triads as the essential building blocks so long taken for granted as the starting place for harmony. Just as physics moved in modernity into the realm of microcosm, so must music. A triad is in many ways a relic of the past no longer relevant to contemporary science/practice unless of course the desired result is traditional sound/music. 

Carson Farley 
University of Washington Alumnus
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