Page 1 of 8 12345 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 106

Thread: Varieties of tonality

  1. #1
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default Varieties of tonality

    A sense of tonality can be created in many ways. The sense of tonality will always be harmonic, as its end effect, since our ears hear that way. But how we get to that harmonic result can be accomplished in many ways.
    There are other components which can contribute to a perception of tonality as well: repetition, the statistical preponderance of a certain note (which can be seen as a form of repetition or occurrence), harmonic context on a micro-level, such as if a note is heard in a triad as 1,3, or 5, and others.
    A good example of what could be called "structural tonality" is in Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, where the successive entries of the chromatic fugue subject are tied to cycles of ascending and descending intervals of the fifth; the theme is first heard on A, then E (a fifth above A), then D (a fifth below A), then B (a fifth above E), and so on, until Eb is reached, a tritone away from A.

    So while we are at each 'station' of the theme, we hear that tonal center; then it moves to the next station, and we hear it that way. This is an example of how a sense of tonality is a localized sensation which can change rapidly, and is not necessarily dependent on a larger hierarchy, or scale, as in the traditional tonal system.

    It would be interesting to hear other thoughts on this subject.

  2. Likes Lukecash12 liked this post
  3. #2
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Ashland, OR
    Posts
    17,964
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I like the title of this thread. I've been struck by the way in which, when people talk about tonality, they rarely say exactly what they mean by it. I tend to think that they usually don't know exactly what they mean, and that they are often in fact talking about different things. I'd like some more insight into what those different things are, as well as what, if anything, they have in common.

    I can see a discussion of this becoming highly technical and abstruse. It would be nice to see some basic concepts stated without getting overloaded with technical detail. Knowing that our host, millionrainbows, is a treasure trove of such detail, I may be hoping for the impossible! But let me start with a question that seems to me very basic: is there something that defines tonality as such, irrespective of the different forms in which it's manifested? What, fundamentally, tells us that music is tonal? And my first question in pursuit of that basic definition of tonality would be: is it enough that a certain tone or tones, among all the tones used in a piece of music, is/are made more conspicuous than other tones, or do the other tones have to be heard to relate to that prominent tone or tones in some particular, identifiable way which helps to determine the form of the music?

    I don't know whether this is the best place to begin with this subject - maybe it would help to look at or listen to some musical examples first - but I always tend to think that making a stab at defining one's terms might at least save time.

  4. Likes Lukecash12, Becca liked this post
  5. #3
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    2,643
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    But let me start with a question that seems to me very basic: is there something that defines tonality as such, irrespective of the different forms in which it's manifested?
    I've been scratching my head at this question for a bit, and if I'm allowed to toot my own horn a bit I think I've come up with a simple and elegant solution to the question: tonality is present in music which has any discernible melodic pattern.

    Btw, I've been meaning to get back to you in the other involved discussion that we struck up earlier on 4'33". Have been feeling foggyheaded but I should be able to put something up soon. I do hope you've found it as stimulating as I have so far.
    Last edited by Lukecash12; Dec-06-2015 at 13:32.
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

  6. #4
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Ashland, OR
    Posts
    17,964
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    My question: is there something that defines tonality as such, irrespective of the different forms in which it's manifested?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lukecash12 View Post
    I've been scratching my head at this question for a bit, and if I'm allowed to toot my own horn a bit I think I've come up with a simple and elegant solution to the question: tonality is present in music which has any discernible melodic pattern.
    I have to say I don't understand this at all. What constitutes a melody? Is there any melody without a discernible pattern? What constitutes a melodic pattern? What makes a melodic pattern discernible or not? Why is a discernible melodic pattern necessary for tonality? And why can there not be a discernibly patterned melody without tonality?

    Would answering these questions give us a definition of tonality, one fundamental enough to cover all instances designated by that term?
    Last edited by Woodduck; Dec-06-2015 at 17:38.

  7. Likes Lukecash12 liked this post
  8. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    1,129
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    My understanding of tonality is that it depends mostly on which note you decide to keep in your memory as the tonic. I can start from C on my piano and play all sorts of chromaticism for a while, and when I end with a C major chord, the feeling of final resolution is there.

    In so called modal music, tonal tension is I believe similarly memory based: there are of course cadences, but you don't really need to do a cadence to create a sense of resolution, just ending with the tonic on a strong beat or something is enough.

    Naturally, after listening to a lot of certain type of music, people have developed expectations and habits of thought, and may keep the tonal center in their memory without much awareness that they're doing it, habitually.

    This becomes more effortful in common practice period music, especially in the classical sonata form, where you're apparently supposed to keep the original tonic in mind even during all of the rather longterm modulations. In a lot of Renaissance music, the tonal center feels more natural, though as I said I suspect it's still a matter of expectations, habit, and keeping it in your memory.
    Last edited by Chordalrock; Dec-06-2015 at 20:41.

  9. #6
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Ashland, OR
    Posts
    17,964
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Chordalrock View Post
    My understanding of tonality is that it depends mostly on which note you decide to keep in your memory as the tonic. I can start from C on my piano and play all sorts of chromaticism for a while, and when I end with a C major chord, the feeling of final resolution is there.

    In so called modal music, tonal tension is I believe similarly memory based: there are of course cadences, but you don't really need to do a cadence to create a sense of resolution, just ending with the tonic on a strong beat or something is enough.

    Naturally, after listening to a lot of certain type of music, people have developed expectations and habits of thought, and may keep the tonal center in their memory without much awareness that they're doing it, habitually.

    This becomes more effortful in common practice period music, especially in the classical sonata form, where you're apparently supposed to keep the original tonic in mind even during all of the rather longterm modulations. In a lot of Renaissance music, the tonal center feels more natural, though as I said I suspect it's still a matter of expectations, habit, and keeping it in your memory.
    I can't agree that tonality can be defined by a specific tone being kept in one's memory. You allude to the difficulty, in complex harmonic music, of doing any such thing, and in fact it's impossible to do it through the wide-ranging modulations of the average sonata-form movement of even the Classical period, much less the Romantic. Yet there is no doubt that such works are tonal.

    I can also conceive of a piece consisting of sequences of notes that seem unrelated to the point of randomness, in which a particular note is returned to often enough to be remembered, yet seems, because of the piece's apparent randomness, like a periodic interruption rather than a resolution. Simply returning to a note would not seem sufficient to make a tonic out of it, without some sense that it was related to the notes around it.

  10. #7
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I like the title of this thread. I've been struck by the way in which, when people talk about tonality, they rarely say exactly what they mean by it. I tend to think that they usually don't know exactly what they mean, and that they are often in fact talking about different things. I'd like some more insight into what those different things are, as well as what, if anything, they have in common.

    I can see a discussion of this becoming highly technical and abstruse. It would be nice to see some basic concepts stated without getting overloaded with technical detail. Knowing that our host, millionrainbows, is a treasure trove of such detail, I may be hoping for the impossible! But let me start with a question that seems to me very basic: is there something that defines tonality as such, irrespective of the different forms in which it's manifested? What, fundamentally, tells us that music is tonal? And my first question in pursuit of that basic definition of tonality would be: is it enough that a certain tone or tones, among all the tones used in a piece of music, is/are made more conspicuous than other tones, or do the other tones have to be heard to relate to that prominent tone or tones in some particular, identifiable way which helps to determine the form of the music?

    I don't know whether this is the best place to begin with this subject - maybe it would help to look at or listen to some musical examples first - but I always tend to think that making a stab at defining one's terms might at least save time.
    is there something that defines tonality as such, irrespective of the different forms in which it's manifested?
    Tonality is reference to a single note, which becomes the center of the tonality, however fleeting. To ask if a perception of tonality is "irrespective of the form in which it is manifested" is asking us to divorce the idea (ear/brain perception) from its form, which is rather like asking if a wheel can roll, irrespective of the form it takes. Now who is complicating things?
    What, fundamentally, tells us that music is tonal?
    Our ears, which are connected to our brains. It's more of a perception than an idea, and thus is subjective. Some may hear it where others do not.

    And my first question in pursuit of that basic definition of tonality would be: is it enough that a certain tone or tones, among all the tones used in a piece of music, is/are made more conspicuous than other tones, or do the other tones have to be heard to relate to that prominent tone or tones in some particular, identifiable way which helps to determine the form of the music?


    They can do both, IMO. A really chromatic melody (as in the Bartok mentioned) gives us this sense by the note it starts on. This is probably similar to the way Schoenberg thought of themes he made from tone rows which start on different notes, I'd guess.

    A sustained bass note is an effective way reinforce this sense, even without repetition, if it is heard 'under' everything else. Again, this goes back to the harmonic way we hear: fundamental tones are lower and louder, from which overtones are derived, and they are weaker and higher components of that main note.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Dec-06-2015 at 22:36.

  11. #8
    Senior Member EDaddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    949
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    To my understanding, "tonality" or "tonicity" is a hierarchy of pitch class where at least one pitch predominates. Pretty simple concept. This, as we all on this thread here clearly understand, is also known as the tonic. Some refer to this classification or organization of music as "pitch-centric". To my understanding, some ways in which one pitch class can predominate over others might include:

    Duration
    Placement
    Repetition
    Accent
    Cadences

    By contrast, atonicity (or atonic music) is that which simply has no tonic or pitch-centric dominance and is, therefore, free of having any pitch hierarchy. Atonicity is built upon a premise of negation - that is, the negation of any pitch-centric hierarchy, rendering all notes of "equal importance". Schoenberg stressed this concept of tonal equality.

    Melody, by its very nature, requires tonality to exist. Period. Its very essence is born from tonality and from a musical language that is organized in a pitch-centric, patterned fashion. To say that there are discernible (patterned) melodies in atonal music is to completely contradict the very essence and concept of the atonal approach in the first place; that is to say that all notes are equal and no one note clearly dominates. Melody requires note dominance. This is a fundamental requirement because melody, at its core, is comprised of a patterned sequence of notes in relationship to tonic, mode, scale, the like. This is one of the areas where Mahlerian and I vastly disagree and will likely continue to until the end of time. This extends to the concept of themes as well which are, in a sense, melodic paragraphs; where as melodies are more like musical sentences. Boiled down to their essence, themes are basically extended melodies (often with harmonic content as well) and, like melodies, require note dominance and a patterned hierarchy of notation to be what they are. Atonal music is anti-melodic at its core and, therefore, but perhaps to a lesser degree, anti-thematic as well. It is because atonal music is free of such rules and hierarchical governance that makes this so. To say anything else is flat out incorrect.

    This is my basic understanding of the fundamental differences of the "tonal" and "atonal" schools of thought and approach in music. It was how they were taught to me and it is how they sound to me. I don't think it's that complicated of a concept really and, to make it more complicated than it really is, is akin to thinking you can just start changing the meaning of, say... words in the English dictionary to be what you want.
    Last edited by EDaddy; Dec-07-2015 at 08:28.

  12. Likes Flamme, Truckload liked this post
  13. #9
    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    2,237
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EDaddy View Post
    To my understanding, "tonality" or "tonicity" is a hierarchy of pitch class where at least one pitch predominates. Pretty simple concept. This, as we all clearly know here, is also known as the tonic. Some refer to this classification or organization of music as "pitch-centric". To my understanding, some ways in which one pitch class can predominate over others might include:

    Duration
    Placement
    Repetition
    Accent
    Cadences

    By contrast, atonicity (or atonic music) is that which simply has no tonic or pitch-centric dominance and is, therefore, free of having any pitch hierarchy. Atonicity is built upon a premise of negation - that is, the negation of any pitch-centric hierarchy, rendering all notes of "equal" importance. Schoenberg stressed this concept of tonal equality.

    Melody, by its very nature, requires tonality to exist. Period. Its very essence is born from tonality and music that is organized in a pitch-centric, patterned fashion. To say that there are discernible, (patterned) melodies in atonal music is to completely contradict of very essence and concept of the atonal approach in and of itself; that is to say that all notes are equal and no one note dominates. Melody requires note dominance. This is a fundamental requirement because melody, at its core, is comprised of a patterned sequence of notes. This is one of the areas where Mahlerian and I vastly disagree. This extends to the concept of themes as well, which are basically melodic paragraphs, where melodies are more like a musical or patterned sentence. Themes also require note dominance and a patterned hierarchy of notation. Atonal music is anti-melody at its core and, therefor, anti-thematic because of the very fact that it is free of such rules and hierarchical governance. To say anything else is flat out incorrect.
    Do I need to visit a psychiatrist for hearing melodies/themes in Schoenberg's music then? Or is Schoenberg's music actually tonal?
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

  14. Likes SeptimalTritone liked this post
  15. #10
    Senior Member Richannes Wrahms's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    1,830
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    Do I need to visit a psychiatrist for hearing melodies/themes in Schoenberg's music then? Or is Schoenberg's music actually tonal?
    aoz8kgx8pzknypz7z38n.jpg. .

  16. Likes SeptimalTritone liked this post
  17. #11
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Ashland, OR
    Posts
    17,964
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Tonality is reference to a single note, which becomes the center of the tonality, however fleeting. To ask if a perception of tonality is "irrespective of the form in which it is manifested" is asking us to divorce the idea (ear/brain perception) from its form, which is rather like asking if a wheel can roll, irrespective of the form it takes. Now who is complicating things?

    Our ears, which are connected to our brains. It's more of a perception than an idea, and thus is subjective. Some may hear it where others do not.
    You begin by misquoting and thus misinterpreting me. I asked: "is there something that defines tonality as such, irrespective of the different forms in which it's manifested?" That is not at all the same thing as asking whether "a perception of tonality is irrespective of the form in which it is manifested." Obviously, nothing in the universe can be understood "irrespective of the form in which it is manifested." Do you see the difference? And when I ask, "What, fundamentally, tells us that music is tonal?", your answer, "our ears, which are connected to our brains," suggests that tonality is entirely a matter of perception, and that there are no actual features of music which define it as tonal. But that could hardly be the case, since that would make tonality "a perception irrespective of the form in which it is manifested"! What, then, are the features of music our ears perceive as determining tonality, and is there a common denominator among such features?

    You do go so far as to say that "Tonality is reference to a single note, which becomes the center of the tonality, however fleeting." What do you mean by "reference"? What is it that is referring to, or being referred to, this "single note"? How is the reference made, and how perceived? And how can you speak of "the center of the tonality," using the very term "tonality" within an attempt to define it?

    Clearly this matter of definition must be addressed in order for the idea of "varieties of tonality" to make sense. Otherwise we can't know just what it is we have varieties of. And I don't think we should assume that the meaning of tonality is just common knowledge or common sense. The endless debate over the matter of "atonality" is evidence of that.

  18. #12
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Ashland, OR
    Posts
    17,964
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EDaddy View Post
    To my understanding, "tonality" or "tonicity" is a hierarchy of pitch class where at least one pitch predominates. Pretty simple concept. This, as we all clearly know here, is also known as the tonic. Some refer to this classification or organization of music as "pitch-centric". To my understanding, some ways in which one pitch class can predominate over others might include:

    Duration
    Placement
    Repetition
    Accent
    Cadences

    By contrast, atonicity (or atonic music) is that which simply has no tonic or pitch-centric dominance and is, therefore, free of having any pitch hierarchy. Atonicity is built upon a premise of negation - that is, the negation of any pitch-centric hierarchy, rendering all notes of "equal" importance. Schoenberg stressed this concept of tonal equality.

    Melody, by its very nature, requires tonality to exist. Period. Its very essence is born from tonality and music that is organized in a pitch-centric, patterned fashion. To say that there are discernible, (patterned) melodies in atonal music is to completely contradict of very essence and concept of the atonal approach in and of itself; that is to say that all notes are equal and no one note clearly dominates. Melody requires note dominance. This is a fundamental requirement because melody, at its core, is comprised of a patterned sequence of notes. This is one of the areas where Mahlerian and I vastly disagree and will likely continue to until the end of time. This extends to the concept of themes as well, which are basically melodic paragraphs, where melodies are more like a musical or patterned sentence. Boiled down to their essence, themes are basically extended melodies and, like melodies, require note dominance and a patterned hierarchy of notation to be what they are. Atonal music is anti-melodic at its core and, therefore, anti-thematic as well. It is because atonal music is free of such rules and hierarchical governance that makes this so. To say anything else is flat out incorrect.

    This is my basic understanding of the fundamental differences of the "tonal" and "atonal" schools of thought and approach in music. It was how they were taught to me and it is how they sound to me. I don't think it's that complicated of a concept really and, to make it more complicated than it really is, is akin to thinking you can just start changing the meaning of, say... words in the English dictionary.
    I don't see why melody is impossible without tonality. It's true that "pattern" implies hierarchy in a basic sense - some notes must have greater emphasis or prominence than others by virtue of position, duration, or repetition (any one or all of these) - but it isn't clear to me that inequality of emphasis is in itself enough to create a sense of tonality. In fact, I can walk over to my piano and create a sequence of tones of varying durations which give me no sense of a tonal center operating in their midst. According to you, it would be incorrect to call such a sequence a melody. We might debate whether it's a good or interesting melody, but I don't see why the definition of melody should be so restricted.

  19. #13
    Senior Member EDaddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    949
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    Do I need to visit a psychiatrist for hearing melodies/themes in Schoenberg's music then? Or is Schoenberg's music actually tonal?
    Lol. I don't know. Maybe whatever they are require a new atonally-based classification. Like "ano-clusters" or something. But they're definitely not melodies.

  20. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    10,588
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    44

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EDaddy View Post
    Lol. I don't know. Maybe whatever they are require a new atonally-based classification. Like "ano-clusters" or something. But they're definitely not melodies.
    Almost all of Schoenberg's music is based entirely on melodies and themes. I can't imagine any non-ad-hoc definition of melody that excludes those melodies in the music that's thrown under the nonsense term atonal.
    Last edited by Mahlerian; Dec-07-2015 at 00:16.

  21. Likes SeptimalTritone, hpowders liked this post
  22. #15
    Senior Member EDaddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    949
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default You can't have your cake and eat it too

    Melody, by its very nature, requires a relationship to a tonal-center. That's what makes it melodic. Atonal music, by definition, has no hierarchical tonal center. It operates from a more "democratic", all-notes-equal 12 tone architecture. The argument falls on pure logic alone. To say that atonal music can contain a melody would, by the very nature and requirement of any melodic line, require that atonal music's architecture be tonally-centric.

    If N=Notes in a sequence
    TC=Tonal center
    NTC=No tonal center

    and if

    N+TC = melody

    and TC does not equal NTC

    Then is the following a true statement?:

    N+TC = N+NTC

    Now I'm no mathematician so there's probably a better way to lay this argument out in a formula form, but it still illustrates the point. On pure logic alone.

    It's one or the other. Call it something else. It's not melody.
    Last edited by EDaddy; Dec-07-2015 at 08:30.

Page 1 of 8 12345 ... LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. The many varieties of Bach's Cello Suites
    By Earthling in forum Recorded Music and Publications
    Replies: 49
    Last Post: Jun-16-2021, 12:32
  2. Tonality Is God
    By millionrainbows in forum Religious Music
    Replies: 129
    Last Post: Aug-28-2014, 16:57
  3. Romanticism: Against Tonality?
    By millionrainbows in forum Classical Music Discussion
    Replies: 39
    Last Post: Dec-20-2013, 22:24
  4. varieties of excellence
    By science in forum Community Forum
    Replies: 31
    Last Post: Feb-16-2012, 14:40
  5. Dance music and varieties such as Flamenco and Ballet
    By shsherm in forum Community Forum
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: May-24-2010, 06:17

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •