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Thread: Harmony as color and modernism

  1. #16
    Senior Member Eschbeg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    No surprise that the symbolists adopted him, and Debussy rode in on the crest of that wave.
    Speaking of waves--and apologies for turning your statement into an awful pun!--but for all the Wagnerian parallels in Faun discussed above, I've always heard La mer as Debussy's most Wagnerian work. There are times when I'm listening to the orchestral colors there and I swear I'm hearing Siegfried.

    (ADDENDUM: In the first decade of the 20th century, it was also La mer rather than Faun that the French perceived as Debussy's first real foray into modern musical territory.)
    Last edited by Eschbeg; Jul-14-2018 at 16:31.

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  3. #17
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    A half-diminished chord can be heard as 'more stable' than a fully diminished despite the fact that it still has a tritone functioning as a destabilizing flat five.

    C-Eb-Gb-Bb could be heard more than one way, regardless of its real analysis; as C half-diminished, or as Eb minor 6 (Eb-Gb-Bb-C). Therefore, it creates its own ambiguity. Remember also that when tritones are inverted, they remain the same interval, the notes simply exchange (C-Gb/Gb-C), so there is a symmetry involved.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

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  5. #18
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Debussy's parallel moving of chords freely is one way he abandons traditional function. By moving major triads in parallel, they become static entities, without the minor/major change in quality which association with a scale would cause. Therefore, he escapes the confines of scales, and this means chromatic freedom.
    Also, he could move triads by outlining (in root movements) the notes of other exotic scales, like the whole tone, thereby creating a 'triadic' color effect at the same time he is outlining an exotic scale, thereby confusing the notion of root movement and scales. Beethoven did this in his transition areas of the Ninth Symphony.

    So when a triad is separated from its function in a scale, it becomes a "color" or pure sound. But most uneducated listeners don't have to unlearn this; only die-hard traditional academics need to be convinced. Meanwhile, Debussy shocked them all by doing exactly what the Hell he wanted to do, using his ear as his guide. He sounds like one o' them jazzers...
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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  7. #19
    Senior Member les24preludes's Avatar
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    I haven't digested all of this yet, but one thing that occurs to me as a classically trained musician who has played many years of jazz is the use of one chord or scale over another. In jazz this can be simplified to e.g. Bb over C or E over C. A very nice example of this is Messiaen's "Les Bergers" from La Nativite du Seigneur. Here's the music plus score.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tihi...&frags=pl%2Cwn

    Go to 10.20 where it's marked modere, joyeux. In bars 8 and 9 the first phrase ends on Ab, Bb, C. But this is over the chord of A minor. We expect A to B to C. The effect is quite magical. It comes across as a kind of "semi-dissonance" which is unexpected but not designed to be jarring as other dissonances are.

  8. #20
    Senior Member Richannes Wrahms's Avatar
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    There is the perspective of the spectralists that treat harmonies as synthetic timbres or "colour fields". I find this piece by Vivier to be quite relevant:


    Composer's Note:

    Lonely Child is a long song of solitude. For the musical construction I wanted to have total power for expression, for musical development on the piece I was composing without using chords, harmony or counterpoint. I wanted to work up to very homophonic music that would be transformed into one single melody, which would be “intervalized.” I had already composed a first melody heard at the beginning of the piece for dancers. I subsequently developed this melody in five “intervalized” melodic fragments that is by adding one note below each note, which creates intervals—thirds, fifths, minor seconds, major seconds etc. If the frequencies of each interval are added, a timbre is created. Thus, there are no longer any chords, and the entire orchestra is then transformed into a timbre. The roughness and the intensity of this timbre depends on the base interval. Musically speaking, there was only one thing I needed to control, which automatically, somehow, would create the rest of the music, that is great beams of color!

  9. #21
    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    An interesting quote from Ravel on Satie in which he appears to be simultaneously crediting his innovations but also criticizing his music:

    "Another significant influence, somewhat unique, and deriving at least partially from Chabrier, is that of Erik Satie, which has had appreciable effect upon Debussy, myself and indeed most of the modern French composers. Satie was possessed of an extremely keen intelligence. His was the inventor's mind par excellence. He was a great experimenter. His experiments may never have reached the degree of development or realization attained by Liszt; but, alike in multiplicity and importance, these experiments have been of inestimable value. Simply and ingeniously Satie pointed the way, but as soon as another musician took to the trail he had indicated, Satie would immediately change his own orientation and without hesitation open up still another path to new fields of experimentation. He thus became the inspiration of countless progressive tendencies; and while he himself may, perhaps, never have wrought out of his discoveries a single complete work of art, nevertheless we have today many such works which might not have come into existence if Satie had never lived."

    --Ravel

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