(musTh 212) Twilight of the Tonal System

Wrapping up notes from chapter one of the Kostka.

Kostka audio examples in iLocker, here.

As was pointed out in class, a lot of the terms are self explanatory. I’ll just limit this post to some highlights.

Chromatic mediant relationships increase chromaticism in late tonal music, and they help in weakening circle-of-fifth progressions. Chromatic mediants will have two triads with roots a third apart, with the same quality. Such harmonies share one common tone. It is more usual to find these chromatic mediant relationships with major harmonies.

For example,
C Maj: C – E  – G
Eb Maj: Eb – G – Bb

Doubly chromatic mediant relationships have harmonies with roots a third apart, but with no common tones. The two triads will be of different types (M and m).

For example,
C Maj: C – E – G
Ab min: Ab – Cb – Eb

Chromatic and doubly chromatic mediant relationships still hold even if one of the chords is spelled enharmonically. In the C maj / Ab min example, the Ab minor could be spelled as a G# minor triad and it will still be a doubly chromatic relationship to C major.

Direct modulations occur when there is no common harmony between the two key areas. Direct modulations can often occur through the use of a common tone, and some theorists call them common-tone modulations.

Dominant seventh chords with roots a tritone apart have a special relationship: two chord tones will be common to the chords. Specifically, the two chord tones that form the tritone (third and seventh) will invert. Often one of the pitches will be spelled enharmonically in one of the chords.

D – F# – A – C
Ab – C – Eb – Gb (F#)

Note that what Kostka calls a real sequence is the same thing as what Roig-Francoli calls a chromatic sequence.

You should also know from the chapter what musical aspects indicate tonality. The absence of these properties indicates atonality. In the types of works we’re studying now we find limited instances of a limited number of the following absent.

  • Diatonic pitch material (the notes of the key)
  • Tertian harmonies (chords built on thirds)
  • Dominant-tonic harmonic progressions (V – I)
  • Dominant-tonic bass lines
  • Resolution of leading tones to tonics
  • Resolution of dissonant sonorities to more consonant ones
  • Pedal points


One response to “(musTh 212) Twilight of the Tonal System”

Leave a Reply