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Thread: Alteration and inflection

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    Default Alteration and inflection

    Hi all,

    I am trying to understand the difference between alteration (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altered_chord#Alteration) and inflection (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatoni...tic_inflection) and I would be grateful if someone could explain it to me. Or are they synonymous?

    Thanks.

    Amadeus

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    Senior Member Norse's Avatar
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    Inflection isn't really a word I'm that used to seeing, but my first thoughts are that "chromatic inflection" is mostly used to describe melodic movement and "single notes" (in relation to the basic scale in question). As you can see, the wikipedia article uses the word alteration to define inflection, so in some sense they describe the same thing. You could for instance say that chromatic inflection may result in altered chords. Maybe it just makes more sense to say that a melody involves chromatic inflection, because saying it involves alteration or altered notes kind of implies that the melody is somehow altered.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    I think Norse has got it write. Cesar Franck inflected his melodies very often thus altering the chord and resulting in a modulation.

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    Thank you guys. Personally, I think they mean the same thing.

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    Senior Member Falstaft's Avatar
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    Very interesting topic, amadeus. I think Norse captures my feelings towards the distinction, which is very very loose. If I were forced to define the fuzzy boundary between inflection and alteration for myself, I'd say inflection is (as Norse puts it) more of a local melodic phenomenon while alteration tends to be of a scale or chord, not a single note. Of course what ends up getting altered are individual notes or scale degrees. So an Ab triad in C-major might be said to be an altered harmony (alteration of the normal submediant, or the major scale), but consist of two chromatically *inflected* scale degrees, Ab and Eb.

    The altered scale of jazz is a nice example, which contains the maximum number of inflections possible according to diatonic jazz harmonization principles. So, instead of ^1-^2-^3-^4-^5-^6-^7 you get ^1-^b2-^#2-^3-^b5-^b6-^b7, perfect for a very crunchy dominant function. Of course, I think jazz musicians would refer to the whole thing as "alteration" -- inflection is more classical. Also, if you're looking for the most thorough (if unsystematic) treatment of chromatic alteration, Ernst Kurth, the German theorist, based an entire theory of 19th century chromaticism on what he called the "alteration style."
    Last edited by Falstaft; Dec-30-2010 at 17:10.

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