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Thread: Tonality Is God

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Default Tonality Is God

    It's possible to construe that the system of tonality itself, based on an hierarchy of sonance in relation to a single tonic note, as the harmonics of a fundamental note relate, is a "sacred" concept, since it relates every diverse harmonic function to a tonic, which becomes the "great note,' metaphorically representing God, "the one." These harmonic functions of Western tonality are based on the division of the octave into 12 notes, which was derived from Pythagoras' (imperfect) cycling of the 2:3 perfect fifth, with its inverted counterpart, the 4:5 perfect fourth.

    Fifths are a value of 7 semitones, and fourths are 5 semitones. These are the only two intervals which do not coincide within the octave or divide it evenly until many cycles of projection are completed; in the case of fifths, 12 x 7 = 84, and for fourths this is 12 x 5 = 60. These are the main harmonic stations of traditional tonality, which is based on root movement by fifths as being most closely related.

    12 is not divisible by either of these intervals, so an 'outside the octave' common denominator must be used. This makes these intervals "outgoing" by nature.

    The other basic intervals (of the 6 possible basic intervals, not counting inversional counterparts) can be divided into 12:
    1 (m2)
    2 (M2)
    3 (m3)
    4 (M3)
    6 (tritone)

    These are intervals which coincide in their cycles or projections within the octave, and divide it symmetrically, so I call these "inward-going" intervals.

    Conversely, systems which are not tonal (based on harmonic models), but use local tone-centers and small divisions of the octave (geometric systems), like Bartok and most modern systems which diverge from harmonic-based hierarchies, are "inner-directed."

    These two different systems represent what I have earlier called "Western" (outward-directed, objective), and "Eastern" (inward-directed, subjective).

    If we continue to stretch this metaphor, we can see that each system represents a different way of conceiving a religious system, or approach to the sacred.

    The Western represents an objective, outer system which must be approached in a receptive (and many times literal) belief in a God 'out there' which is part of the objective scheme of things. If anything, we are merely small extensions of this great oneness, if that. Until we establish a connection, we are separated.

    The Eastern represents a 'going within,' a diametric reversal, where we are connected internally with the sacred. For me, this is a more inclusive model, as every being is assumed to have an inner connection with the sacred, with no recognition of external symbols necessary. For me, this precludes the establishment of 'objective' belief systems of religion.

    On a number line, these two approaches, the inner and outer, can be seen as two directions to infinity (God): The Western going to the right, in ever-increasing numbers, from 1 into infinity; The Eastern going to the left, from 1 towards zero, in ever-decreasing degrees of fractions.

    Both are based on the starting point of "1," the big note, or the octave.

    Taking this metaphor further, tonality can be seen as the embodiment of a Newtonian universe, a universe based on "gravity" and in keeping with a church-based view of Man, that God is the center of all things.

    Atonality, or serialism, can be metaphorically seen as the dissolution of the Newtonian universe, and of gravity, into a relativistic, Einsteinian universe, in which Man is insignificant by comparison to the stars. Historically, this reflects the diminishing power of the church, ans increasing secularism and a new scientific realism which now pervades.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-20-2014 at 20:43.

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    Senior Member Blake's Avatar
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    Interesting. I shall not opine until it has marinated justly.

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    Fascinating post.

    I don't accept the Eastern \ Western or inner \ outer dichotomy except as reflecting different approaches to spirituality - the contemplative \ active dichotomy which reflects the Christian belief that God is out there but his life (of grace) is within us.

    Neither do I accept that atonality or serialism represents the dissolution of the Newtonian universe rather it represents a dissatisfaction with the increasingly formal structures of counterpoint and harmony much as Gödel and Turing showed that mathematics and computing had become so complex as to be unprovable. Even within scientific realism there is room for the divine. As Einstein said - God does not play dice - a comment on aleatory music perhaps? We can also see this in the work of Musica Facta on syntonic temperament where the Pythagorean tuning is one among many just as Euclidean Geometry is also one among many.

    I wouldn't consider that composers who have moved away from tonality whether into modes or into folk themes are inner directed or subjective. Vaughan Williams and others of the English folk song revival are focused on the outward reality of the English folk culture.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    I'm thinking the Almighty enjoys His music in a different manner.

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    She probably does.

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    I think you're imposing meaning on something that has no meaning. Christ wasn't even born when Pythogoras invented the his tuning.

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    I've seen the same associations made to suggest that music since Schoenberg has sucked because it was implicitly atheistic. With either spin, I suspect hyperactive pattern recognition.

    What would, say, Richard Taruskin say of this analysis? Or Bruno Nettl? I'll take it seriously when I find out that they do.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taggart View Post
    I don't accept the Eastern \ Western ... dichotomy
    This is crucial. I wouldn't have expected in 2014 to run into this colonialist reduction of half the globe's people to stereotypes of sub-rationality. Anyone who believes this stuff about the mystical Eastern mind needs to spend a few months abroad - and not in places where people will tell him anything he wants to hear in exchange for cash.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    She probably does.
    If she exists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gog View Post
    If she exists.
    My point too.
    Last edited by joen_cph; Jul-21-2014 at 14:01.

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    Senior Member Blake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    This is crucial. I wouldn't have expected in 2014 to run into this colonialist reduction of half the globe's people to stereotypes of sub-rationality. Anyone who believes this stuff about the mystical Eastern mind needs to spend a few months abroad - and not in places where people will tell him anything he wants to hear in exchange for cash.
    It's not so much about location as a terminology for a mindset. There are plenty of westerners with 'eastern' thought and vice-versa. Don't give the terms too much weight. It's simply pointing to a method of investigation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vesuvius View Post
    It's not so much about location as a terminology for a mindset. There are plenty of westerners with 'eastern' thought and vice-versa. Don't give the terms too much weight. It's simply pointing to a method of investigation.
    Use the dichotomies like inward/outward or spiritual/material or mystical/rational all you want. I probably won't have much of an objection... certainly not any very strong one... But this looks like a step toward the admission that using them to stereotype billions of people is a mistake. So that encourages me.
    Last edited by Taggart; Jul-21-2014 at 18:41. Reason: Housekeeping
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    Use the dichotomies like inward/outward or spiritual/material or mystical/rational all you want.
    Thanks, I will.

    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    I probably won't have much of an objection... certainly not any very strong one... But this looks like a step toward the admission that using them to stereotype billions of people is a mistake.
    The "inner-directed" intervals (m2, M2, m3, M3, tritone) and "outer-directed" intervals (P5, P4) all have literal meanings, in terms of their relation to the octave, and how they are recursive either within the octave, or outside the octave.

    Here's another stereotype: Western tonality is based on the 'outward projecting' intervals of fourths and fifths, which, as stations of root movement, go "outside" the octave into more and more distant key areas (the familiar V-I cycle of C-G-D-A-E-B-F#-C#).

    This can be construed to metaphorically embody the conquering, dominating Western colonial mindset (which would include Spain, France, Germany, and Britain), which feels compelled to constantly 'modulate' or conquer new harmonic territory (invade and dominate foreign countries).

    The inner-directed intervals are content to stay within smaller areas of local tonality.

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    I've edited or removed some posts as they focused negatively on members. Let's try to refocus on the contents of people's posts instead. Please try and be less aggressive.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    When I read something like this, someone using terms like "Western" and "Eastern" in this manner, I never think that it refers to actual, living people. It's all metaphysical to me, completely unconnected to actual present reality and I'm sure that MR intended it that way.
    Wäre das Faktum wahr, – wäre der außerordentliche Fall wirklich eingetreten, daß die politische Gesetzgebung der Vernunft übertragen, der Mensch als Selbstzweck respektiert und behandelt, das Gesetz auf den Thron erhoben, und wahre Freiheit zur Grundlage des Staatsgebäudes gemacht worden, so wollte ich auf ewig von den Musen Abschied nehmen, und dem herrlichsten aller Kunstwerke, der Monarchie der Vernunft, alle meine Thätigkeit widmen.

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