diatonic, chromatic, enharmonic; consonance, dissonance ... · solfege, alteration – up or down...

6
Diatonic, Chromatic, Enharmonic; Consonance, Dissonance Historical and Cultural Space Meanings CARMEN CHELARU Faculty of Music Performance. Department No. 2 ”George Enescu” University of Arts – Iași Address: Str. Horia No. 7-9, RO-700126 Iaşi ROMANIA [email protected] Abstract: In music there are several terms permanently used, whose meaning changed in time, depending on the historical moment or cultural space; among them, consonance and dissonance, diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic. Tonality appeared during baroque era and was finalized by J.S. Bach. After that, it grew up in the music of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt for about 150 years. At the end of 19 th century, Wagner created the expanded tonality the last step of the tonal system evolution. This tonal type represents an original, ingenious synthesis between all historical phases of the system evolution; meantime it contains the germ of polytonality and atonality. In other words, Bach and Wagner marked the beginning and end of the tonality. Key-Words: consonance, dissonance, diatonic, chromatic, enharmonic, tonality, expanded tonality, tonic. 1 Introduction During the European music history, there is a short period 18 th century when the tonality was adopted. The tonal system is founded on acoustical bases, is clearly exposed, remarkably applied by the Classical Masters, and it also continues to be functional nowadays, in spite of the new-born sound systems of 20 th century and more. It is quite exciting to follow the meaning changing of a few terms in fact so familiar to all musicians like the above ones, along the known history of music. It is beyond doubt that during the European musical history of the last three hundred years, tonality is the most familiar, agreeable, well-known, and preferred sound system by the most musicians and music lovers. Tonal harmony confers special senses to dissonance, to chromatic or enharmonic terms. More than that: Classical and Romantic aesthetic in music is based on the relationship between the above notions. These are the reasons we chose to refer bellow at two of the most important contributors in the tonality evolution: Bach and Wagner. 2 Brief Theory and History Let’s take the triad diatonic, chromatic and enhar- monic. The terms’ definitions are both imprecise and unclear; they also do not reflect the historical meaning changes; actually they claim a generally accepted meaning, not a scientific one. 2.1 Definitions Diatonic Etymology: Greek dia toniké = by tones Disposition of the tones and the semitones by the natural order, in a musical structure. ‘Natural order’ refers to the acoustic estate of sounds and intervals.[1] According to Dolmetsch Dictionary a diatonic scale means: notes that occur naturally in a standard major or minor scale, without being modified by accidentals other than the sharps or flats in the relevant key signature[2] The definitions are vague enough. Both of them generate a few questions: What precisely ‘natural order’ is? What ‘acoustic estate’ and also a ‘standard scale’ are? Latest Advances in Acoustics and Music ISBN: 978-1-61804-096-1 39

Upload: others

Post on 27-Apr-2020

46 views

Category:

Documents


1 download

TRANSCRIPT

Page 1: Diatonic, Chromatic, Enharmonic; Consonance, Dissonance ... · solfege, alteration – up or down – of a diatonic sound. [6] c) Sound scale, consisting in . chromatic . and . diatonic

Diatonic, Chromatic, Enharmonic;

Consonance, Dissonance

Historical and Cultural Space Meanings

CARMEN CHELARU

Faculty of Music Performance. Department No. 2

”George Enescu” University of Arts – Iași

Address: Str. Horia No. 7-9, RO-700126 Iaşi

ROMANIA

[email protected]

Abstract: In music there are several terms permanently used, whose meaning changed in time, depending on the

historical moment or cultural space; among them, consonance and dissonance, diatonic, chromatic, and

enharmonic.

Tonality appeared during baroque era and was finalized by J.S. Bach. After that, it grew up in the music of

Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt – for about 150 years.

At the end of 19th century, Wagner created the expanded tonality – the last step of the tonal system

evolution. This tonal type represents an original, ingenious synthesis between all historical phases of the system

evolution; meantime it contains the germ of polytonality and atonality.

In other words, Bach and Wagner marked the beginning and end of the tonality.

Key-Words: consonance, dissonance, diatonic, chromatic, enharmonic, tonality, expanded tonality, tonic.

1 Introduction During the European music history, there is a short

period – 18th century – when the tonality was

adopted. The tonal system is founded on acoustical

bases, is clearly exposed, remarkably applied by the

Classical Masters, and it also continues to be

functional nowadays, in spite of the new-born sound

systems of 20th century and more.

It is quite exciting to follow the meaning

changing of a few terms – in fact so familiar to all

musicians – like the above ones, along the known

history of music.

It is beyond doubt that during the European

musical history of the last three hundred years,

tonality is the most familiar, agreeable, well-known,

and preferred sound system by the most musicians

and music lovers. Tonal harmony confers special

senses to dissonance, to chromatic or enharmonic

terms. More than that: Classical and Romantic

aesthetic in music is based on the relationship

between the above notions.

These are the reasons we chose to refer bellow

at two of the most important contributors in the

tonality evolution: Bach and Wagner.

2 Brief Theory and History Let’s take the triad diatonic, chromatic and enhar-

monic. The terms’ definitions are both imprecise

and unclear; they also do not reflect the historical

meaning changes; actually they claim a generally

accepted meaning, not a scientific one.

2.1 Definitions Diatonic

Etymology: Greek dia toniké = by tones

Disposition of the tones and the semitones by the

natural order, in a musical structure. ‘Natural order’

refers to the acoustic estate of sounds and

intervals.[1]

According to Dolmetsch Dictionary a diatonic

scale means: ”notes that occur naturally in a

standard major or minor scale, without being

modified by accidentals other than the sharps or

flats in the relevant key signature”[2]

The definitions are vague enough. Both of them

generate a few questions: What precisely ‘natural

order’ is? What ‘acoustic estate’ and also a

‘standard scale’ are?

Latest Advances in Acoustics and Music

ISBN: 978-1-61804-096-1 39

Page 2: Diatonic, Chromatic, Enharmonic; Consonance, Dissonance ... · solfege, alteration – up or down – of a diatonic sound. [6] c) Sound scale, consisting in . chromatic . and . diatonic

Fig. 1 Zarlino’s natural diatonic scale.

Up: Frequency ratios between each note and tonic.

Down: Frequency ratio for each interval and sound

frequency.[3]

According to the above Fig. 1, here there is a

third definition of the diatonic scale – closer to a

scientific explanation: “a seven note, octave-

repeating musical scale comprising five whole steps

and two half steps for each octave.”[4]

Chromatic

Etymology: Greek chromatiké = colour

The term supposes three meanings at least:

a) Ancient Greek tetrachord and modal systems, en-

closing one or two augmented second(s) [5].

b) Usually in the solfege, alteration – up or down –

of a diatonic sound. [6]

c) Sound scale, consisting in chromatic and diatonic

semitones.

Enharmonic

Etymology: Greek, en = in, harmonia = harmony.

The term also supposes more than one meaning:

a) The capacity for two notes with different "spell-

ings" to be represented by the same degree of the

scale.[7]

b) In ancient Greek theory, also in Byzantine music,

the term refers to the presence of microtonal

intervals. [8]

Consonant

Etymology: Latin, con = with, sonare = to sound.

Concordant, harmonious, notes harmonising to-

gether.

Dissonant

Etymology: Latin, dis = apart, sonare = to sound.

Considered to be unstable (or temporary, transi-

tional).

We consider the above definitions entirely

subjective – what is consonant for an European

person could be dissonant for an Australian one; and

also what is consonant for a Modern person could

be dissonant for a Middle Age one.

2.2 Before Tonality The ancient Greeks used the terms in their modal

system theory. They classified the modes by the

tetrachord structure, into three genres: diatonic – by

tones and semitones, chromatic – by tones,

semitones and augmented seconds, and enharmonic

– by tones and microtones (quarter of tone).

Byzantine modal system has continued the

Greek one, by maintaining the meanings and the

structure of the three modal genres.[9]

At the same time, on 20th century, the Romanian

folklorists applied the same rules in the folklore

researches. Professor Gheorghe Ciobanu, for

example, observes that in the Romanian musical

folklore,”the main condition to consider a mode

being chromatic is to include one or two augmented

seconds.”[10]

Therefore, in the religious traditional music, as

well as in the Romanian musical folklore, we find the

same triad applied to the modal systems structure.

2.3 Tonal Meanings of the Terms Tonality is one of the most interesting and complete

system of sounds ever conceived. At the same time,

its existence is not as long as it seemed to be: Bach

and his generation concluded its structure, and

Wagner began its dissolution; that means about 140

years, considering from 1722 (Bach composed the

first book of the Well Tempered Clavier), to 1859

(Wagner finished Tristan and Isolde). During this

(short!) period, the rules and the principles used to

be as strict and precise as they can be, considering

the specificity of art (so different from the science).

Tonality significantly changed the meanings of

diatonic, chromatic and enharmonic, among other

reasons by the appearance of the equal temperament

[11] tuning.

The term chromatic, for instance, becomes the

opposite of diatonic as following: diatonic means

‘constituent part, owner’, while chromatic is

‘change, new, different’.

According to this, the Romanian musicologist

Gheorghe Firca initiated a new term as diatonically

chromatic, which means that a tonality – or rather a

mode – could enclose constantly a chromatic sound,

interval or chord; therefore, this sound, interval or

chord maybe considered as a diatonic part of the

tonality/mode.[12] We can mention as an example

the harmonic version of the minor tonality, where

the augmented second is a diatonically chromatic

interval.

Enharmonic in the tonal system also acquires a

different meaning than the Greek, the Byzantine or

Latest Advances in Acoustics and Music

ISBN: 978-1-61804-096-1 40

Page 3: Diatonic, Chromatic, Enharmonic; Consonance, Dissonance ... · solfege, alteration – up or down – of a diatonic sound. [6] c) Sound scale, consisting in . chromatic . and . diatonic

the folklore ones. In equal temperament tuning, an

octave is divided into a series of equal steps (equal

frequency ratios between successive notes). For

classical music, the most common tuning system is

twelve-tone equal temperament. By consequence,

two enharmonic sounds/intervals/chords have

different names and identical pitches.

Enharmonic generates all sort of tonal

modulations. It is well known, for instance, the

identical sonority of the dominant seventh chord and

augmented sixth one; the difference appears by their

resolution only (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Dominant seventh chords (left);

augmented sixth chord (right)

The same happens in the enharmonic

modulations. Let’s take, for example, the passage

between the second and the third movements in

Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto. The main tonality

of the first and the last movements is E flat major –

the ‘Imperial’. The second movement is written in B

major. Actually the true tonality should be C flat

major! In order to be easier performed, Beethoven

preferred to C flat key its enharmonic version – B

major. (Fig. 3)

Fig. 3 Beethoven’s 5th

Piano Concerto.

End of 2nd

movement. Enharmonic modulation from

B (C flat ) major to E flat major.

2.4 Consonance and Dissonance in the Classical Way

Tonality involves two other important notions:

consonance and dissonance. As we mentioned

above, the meaning of these terms is also imprecise

and historical changeable. The tonal harmony

specifies the significance of consonant and

dissonant chords, their features and methods of

combining them; above all, the tonal harmony

specifies how to prepare, to use and to solve

dissonant chords.

Nowadays, there are no practical limits between

consonance and dissonance.

3 The Tonal Era, from Bach to Wagner The gradual transition from Bach’s tonal harmony

to Wagner’s expanded tonality represents an

interesting implication of the terms in question here.

For Bach and Viennese classics, tonality used to be

one tonic functional system. Nowadays, every

professional musician knows the basics of tonal

harmony: principal and secondary keys, authentic

and plagal cadences etc.

In spite of the strict rules of the beginnings,

tonal harmony became more and more permissive,

especially during the 19th century: from Beethoven,

to Chopin, Liszt, and above all to Wagner.

As usual happens in art domain, practice is the

exception to the theory. Beginning with 19th century,

dissonance became more exciting than consonance.

It wasn’t so cautiously treated anymore; it was not

prepared and not resolved all the time; it became the

‘condiment’ of the romantic harmony. At the end of

the Romantic period, the one-tonic system became a

multiple-tonics one.

3.1 Bach and the ‘New-Born’ Tonal Harmony Let’s take the Prelude No. 1, C major form the Well

Tempered Clavier, Book I. The harmony claims the

strict rules of the tonality. The chords relations are

entirely authentic; there is a single modulation, from

C major to G major – between close related keys

(Fig. 4, Table 1).

Fig. 4 Bach, C major Prelude, first 7 bars.

Latest Advances in Acoustics and Music

ISBN: 978-1-61804-096-1 41

Page 4: Diatonic, Chromatic, Enharmonic; Consonance, Dissonance ... · solfege, alteration – up or down – of a diatonic sound. [6] c) Sound scale, consisting in . chromatic . and . diatonic

Table 1 Bach’s C major Prelude. First 7 bars harmony

Bar No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Key C (C) G G Tonal

Function I II V I VI II→V I

Chord 7 7 6 7 7 6

3 3

In the 35 bars of the Prelude, except the short

modulation to G major, the harmony remains on the

C major ‘territory’. At the same time, we are not

talking here about a scholastic or simplistic

harmony – it is the genius of Bach after all! Bach’s

tonality was young, inexperienced, rules were not

definitely formed yet, so the composer’s attitude

towards the new born system was to construct, to

strengthen and not to destroy.

Fig. 5 Bach, C major Prelude, bars 20–23.

In the above four bars (Fig. 5), even there is not

tonal stability, the principal key, C major, is there

all the time, implicitly.

The composer deliberately delays the cadence

on the tonic, by an eight bars long pedal on G

(Dominant) in order to increase the final effect;

moreover, he delays the final chord on tonic, by

‘playing’ on C pedal for three more bars. (Fig. 6)

Fig. 6 Bach, C major Prelude, bars 32-35.

Pedal on C – delay of the final resolution.

Conclusion: The final third of the Prelude (last 12

bars) represents the preparing&delay of the last

tonic chord. By postponing the end, the tension

increases and the final resolution becomes more

dramatic and more spectacular.

3.2 Wagner’s Expanded Tonality – the Final Frontier!

Comparing to the harmony above, Wagner’s

Prelude at Tristan and Isolde exposes a quite

different tonal configuration. Actually, it could be

considered a practical demonstration of the

expanded tonality – one of the principal features of

Wagner’s style.

We hardly found a definition of the ‘expanded

tonality’:

”… extension of the common practice tonality. It

results in highly chromatic music, where remotely

related regions/harmonies are introduced, often in

rather dense manner, free use of extended chords

(9ths, 11ths, 13ths) as well as quartal harmony.

Basically, it is all about quite free use of the whole

chromatic gamut, while still maintaining a sense of

central tone (tonic), though it is often hard to

determine if you are in major or minor due to the

high degree of chromaticism.”[13].

Even this one is vague enough – it is like

everybody knows the meaning, yet nobody can

explain it! The definition mentions terms like

‘chromatic’ and ‘central tone’ / tonic. Even it is true

that these are essential terms, the main explanation

is missing. As it is quite obviously in Wagner’s

music, expanded tonality is neither just chromatic,

nor modal or atonal harmony.

At the end of the 19th century, the tonality has

grown up – it has become a mature (even old aged!)

system. After many important experiences – like

those of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms

– it seemed that nothing should be shocking or

forbidden anymore in the tonal harmony. Diatonic

and consonance became benches in theory more

than in practice. Their presence was rather implied

than explicit, in order to augment the effect of

chromatic, enharmonic as well as of the dissonance.

This profound change has culminated in Wagner’s

music. The most spectacular and synthetic page

illustrative for the Wagnerian harmony is, no doubt,

the Prelude at Tristan and Isolde.

The Prelude encloses in the 110 bars, one of the

most profound and intense emotion ever exposed

through music. As an overview, the musical fluid

flows continuously, growing to a climax, and then

decreases to the end. The most effective method to

increase the emotional tension is here the

dissonance without resolution as well as a

permanent tonal instability – some kind of harmonic

‘suspense’. As a matter of fact, in Wagner’s

harmony there is more relaxation rather than

resolution, we dare say.

Of all dissonant chords, Wagner choses ‘the

dominantic’ ones: their acoustic effect is more

dramatic, more tensioned, more close to the virtual

(not explicit) tonic than any other dissonant chord.

This is – we consider – ‘the secret’ of the expanded

Wagnerian tonality! In other words, it’s not any

‘dissonance’ or chromatic matter – it is the

dominantic dissonance we are talking about. This

peculiar sonority maintains the tonal feature of the

Latest Advances in Acoustics and Music

ISBN: 978-1-61804-096-1 42

Page 5: Diatonic, Chromatic, Enharmonic; Consonance, Dissonance ... · solfege, alteration – up or down – of a diatonic sound. [6] c) Sound scale, consisting in . chromatic . and . diatonic

music. Meantime, it defines a new, special kind of

tonality: the multiple tonics one.

Wagner uses four sorts of ‘dominantic chords’

[14], as following: the dominant seventh (V7 –

7m/5p/3M – Fig. 2), chords by diminished fifth and

diminished seventh (7-/5-/3m – Fig. 2), chords by

diminished fifth and minor seventh (7m/5-/3m) and

the augmented sixth (6+ – Fig. 2, Fig. 8).

Fig. 7 Diminished seventh chord (7-/5-/3m)

Fig. 8 Beginning of the Prelude.

Augmented sixth chord (6+) or ‘Tristan Chord’

The Prelude includes about 145 chords. From

these, approximately 105 are ‘dominantic’, as

following:

– dominant seventh = 55, which means about 38%

– diminished or minor seventh = 30, about 20%

– augmented sixth = 10, about 7%

Conclusion: 72% of chords have dominant effect,

which means that each of them is sending/is

dependent implicitly to a key.

According to this, there are two important

observations: a) these dominantic chords ‘are

serving’ – not one, not two – but many different

keys (Table 2).

Table 2 Wagner, Prelude, bars 51–60. In ten bars

there are nine key changings. Bar No. 51 52 53 54 55

Key D E E

Tonal

Function V V I VII I II II I

Chord

4 7M 6 7m 6 6 7m 6

3 5+ 5p 4

3M

56 57 58 59 60

B E A F E G C

V V / VII / V VII / VI / VII VI V VII

7 7 7m 7 7- 6 7- 6 7 7- 4

b) Most of the dominantic chords have not explicitly

resolution (Fig. 8, Fig. 9).

Therefore, Prelude at Tristan and Isolde is a

long line of tonal ‘hints’ directed to several tonal

centers. By consequence, the same could be the

expanded tonality definition: a line of dominantic

chords, not necessarily resolved, referring to

different keys – by consequence and briefly calling

it a multiple tonics system.

4 Conclusions – The scientific methods and principles are not

entirely applicable to the art. Therefore, the

definitions in the artistic domain could be rather

imprecise, depending on the time (historical

moment) and on the space (cultural area).

Fig. 9 Wagner, Prelude, bars 1–20.

The first resolution in this line of chords

happens on bar 17.

– In art, a term may have more than one sense;

sometimes their meanings could be rather

distinct.

– During its short historical existence, tonality

changed enough, from the one-tonic system, in

Bach, Haydn and Mozart times, to the multiple-

tonic system in Wagner and his followers’

times.

– The rules of tonal harmony changed – especially

regarding the meaning and using the dissonance.

– The evolution of consonance and dissonance

meaning became an exciting one. On the

‘forbidden fruit’ principle, consonance does not

represent a temptation, while everybody is

dreaming at the ‘spicy’ dissonance!

Latest Advances in Acoustics and Music

ISBN: 978-1-61804-096-1 43

Page 6: Diatonic, Chromatic, Enharmonic; Consonance, Dissonance ... · solfege, alteration – up or down – of a diatonic sound. [6] c) Sound scale, consisting in . chromatic . and . diatonic

– Regarding the tonality history, Bach sits on the

tone-modal confluence. In his harmony, he

keeps modal traces, same as he ends the tonality

shape. (Fig. 10)

Fig. 10 Bach, Fugue for organ D minor BWV 565,

last four bars. Last three chords create modal

harmony: V (minor chord!) – IV (minor chord) –

I (without third).

– Following the tonality evolution from Bach to

Wagner, also considering the expanded tonality

specific structure, we may conclude that this is

the last frontier to polytonality, atonality and

tonal-modalism in the 20th century.

References:

[1] Dicţionar de termeni muzicali, Ed.

enciclopedică, Bucureşti, 2010, pp. 163, 367.

ISBN 978-973-45-0606-4

[2] Dolmetsch Dictionary www.dolmetsch.com

[3] Dem Urmă, Acustică și muzică [Acoustics and

Music], Ed. Științifică și enciclopedică,

Bucharest 1982, p. 410

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatonic_scale

[5] Gh. Ciobanu, Studii de etnomuzicologie şi

bizantinologie, vol. I, Ed. Muz., Bucharest,

1974, p. 57.

[6] Dictionnaire de la musique (M. Honegger),

Bordas 1976, vol. I, p. 202.

[7] ”for example A flat and G sharp, which on an

equal tempered keyboard instrument are played

with the same key, but which on a flexibly tuned

instrument, like a violin, can be perceptibly

different.” Dolmetsch Dictionary, 08.01.2012

http://www.dolmetsch.com/defsec.htm

[8] ”One of the three basic type of genus, with a

characteristic interval of approximately a 'major

3rd' at the top of the tetrachord, then 2

successive intervals of approximately a 'quarter-

tone' at the bottom, making up a 4/3, 'perfect

4th'.” Dolmetsch Dictionary, 08.01.2012

http://www.dolmetsch.com/defsec.htm

[9] Grigore Panțîru, Notația și ehurile muzicii

bizantine [Notation and Echos of the Byzantine

Music], Ed. Muzicală, Bucharest, 1971, p. 207

[10] ”singura condiție pentru ca un mod să fie trecut

în rîndul celor cromatice este să cuprindă unul

sau două intervale de secundă mărită.” Gh.

Ciobanu, Studii de etnomuzicologie și

bizantinologie (Ethnomusicolohy and

Byzantinology Studies), vol. I, Ed. Muzicală

Bucharest, p. 74.

[11] ”System of tuning, in which every pair of

adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio.”

Edward M. Burns, Intervals, Scales, and

Tuning, in The Psychology of Music, second

edition, 1999, p. 218; Dicționar de termeni

muzicali (Dictionary of Musical Terms), op. cit.

pp. 538-541.

[12] Gh. Firca, Bazele modale ale cromatismului

diatonic (Modal Basis of the Diatonically

Chromatic), Ed. Muzicală, Bucharest 1966.

[13] Answers.com

[14] We mean by this all chords directly

dependent/closely linked to a key/tonic. These

chords are unstable, dissonant (in the tonal

sense) and, above all, they demand resolution to

a tonic/tonal centre.

Latest Advances in Acoustics and Music

ISBN: 978-1-61804-096-1 44