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Thread: Tonality is established by root movement in fourths and fifths

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Default Tonality is established by root movement in fourths and fifths

    Or is it?

    I'll use the "Emperor" Concerto as the example.



    At 0:00, we hear the opening chord of Eb major, which establishes the tonality.
    At 22:00, we hear root movement down a fifth to Ab major.
    What is this second chord?

    Is this second chord, Ab major, the real root after all, and the first chord, Eb major, actually a V?
    But notice, neither chord is a flatted seventh; they are both plain major chords with no seventh. By going down a fifth, the root has traveled, and weakened a bit. It's ambiguous as to which chord is "home." Is this a V-I or a I-IV? And this is after only two chords!

    As you will recall from my other posts on root movement and tonality, root movement of a fourth up is heard as "root on top." This is equivalent to its inversion, a fifth down (which is what Beethoven does here). So we're hearing this second chord as a "new contender" for the key.

    The dilemma is resolved by the third chord, Bb7, which occurs at 00:44. This was a root movement up a major second, from Ab to Bb.
    The flat seventh is there, so Bbis the dominant seven (V7) chord. The root movement from there is a fourth up, back to Eb, which establishes the key of Eb.

    Already, in just three chords, we can see how the major scale, with its fourth "up," creates a tension, and brings the tonality into question.
    This "fourth up" can also reinforce tonality, depending on which notes are involved.

    Switching to the key of C major and its scale for convenience, we can see a fourth in two ways: C-F is a way of traveling away from the home key, since fourths are heard as "root on top." Thus, C-F sounds like F is a new home key.
    G-C, also a fourth, is a way of returning to the key, since fourths are heard as "root on top."

    Fifths are simply the inversion of this:
    C-G reinforces the key of C, since fifths are heard as "root on bottom."
    F-C, also a fifth, reinforces F as a possible new key, since fifths are heard as "root on bottom."

    Thus, tonality is established by the intervals of fourths and fifths. They are really the same interval, under inversion. Intervals are vertical entities, so it's not really the movement of the roots which creates sensations of tonality, but their relationship as vertical entities and position within the scale.

    In fact, in terms of root movement, there are really only six possibilities, manifest as six intervals: minor second, major second, minor third, major third, fourth, and tritone. The rest are inversions of these, including the fifth.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-04-2018 at 18:51.
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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Composers have been very creative in using many different sonorities relative to the tonic. In traditional harmon, just by noodling around whichever way in a scale, a tonic is implied, and even through some modulations. I wouldn't limit it to only 4ths and 5ths. Prokofiev hardly used 4ths and 5ths in his War Sonatas I believe.

    Repetition of a certain note in a diatonic scale most readily determines the mode through my experimentations, combined with the thirds of triad
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Aug-06-2018 at 15:00.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Composers have been very creative in using many different sonorities relative to the tonic. In traditional harmon, just by noodling around whichever way in a scale, a tonic is implied, and even through some modulations. I wouldn't limit it to only 4ths and 5ths. Prokofiev hardly used 4ths and 5ths in his War Sonatas I believe.
    Yes, but all the other possible root movements: m2, M2, m3, M3, and tritone, don't in and of themselves establish a new tonal root. They are ambiguous.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Repetition of a certain note in a diatonic scale most readily determines the mode through my experimentations, combined with the thirds of triad
    Repetition must take place over time. Fourths and fifths, when instantaneously heard as intervals, do this implicitly, i.e., as "contained in the essential nature of something but not openly shown."
    "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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    Senior Member philoctetes's Avatar
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    Call any Amazonian, and the chances are good...

    The mediant in a triad is modal and mutable. The tonic is much less so, because it is harmonically pinned more strongly to the dominant and subdominant. They're like a three-legged stool.

    When modality goes Phrygian, the 3rd won't be an indicator of that.
    Last edited by philoctetes; Aug-09-2018 at 16:43.

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    Senior Member philoctetes's Avatar
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    These tonal /modal shifts are something I like about Schubert's later pieces...

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    This is a fascinating area which I did not know existed. It's different from the ideas I have covered in this thread, because these "modal frames" and "parlour melodies" define tonality by purely melodic means, not harmonic function in the usual sense. I will investigate this further...
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
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    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    I think "modal framing" is just a term used when "normal" harmonic analysis doesn't work, but I see it as unnecessary.


    The "modal framing" section in WIK gives "A Hard Day's Night" as an example, but it's posted in the wrong key. It's in G, actually. I see this song as Lennon using different scales, or notes of scales, for whatever effect he wants. It's mainly in G mixolydian, with occassional 'blue notes' thrown in. The bridge (I suspect was McCartney's contribution) goes into a pure minor mode.

    This underscores the Beatles' approach to songwriting. Raised in the English folk tradition, and popular music of the early century, they combine this with "bluesy" sounding notes to give it a rock feel. Sometimes this is strictly partitioned into contrasting sections, as in the example above. Other instances are "Tell Me What You See" where it is happy major until the chorus (on the words "Tell me what you see"), where the harmonized vocals do a b79 shift downward, as in many blues and gospel songs.

    "You Can't Do That" is another Beatles song which mixes mixolydian with 'bluesy' sounding scale notes. "Whatever works for the moment" seems to be Lennon's attitude.
    "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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    Senior Member philoctetes's Avatar
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    Talking

    I'm fascinated by Lennon when his songs turn out to be playable on a diatonic harmonica, where he avoids the "missing" notes at the low octave. Dream #9 is my favorite, also Close Your Eyes and You Won't See Me. I wonder how many of his songs were born on the blues harp.

    Mixolydian is the familiar "cross-harp" or second position mode that most harpers learn to play blues with using the dominant 7th chord rooted on the #2 hole draw. The songs I'm referring to seem to be 1st position or Ionian, but may have bridges in the minor as you say.

    According to Kim Field, Lennon learned harp from Delbert McClinton, but never learned to bend it like Mick Jagger or Brian Jones did, so the Beatles went on to other things. However, I think Lennon's use of the harp on the second octave is possibly underestimated.
    Last edited by philoctetes; Aug-13-2018 at 20:48.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    That's interesting about Lennon and the harmonica.

    Speaking of the 2 elements which went into Beatle songs, the "black" blues influence and the "white" English folk tradition and tin-pan alley, in America this exists too, with probably a greater black influence, especially in rock.

    But it seems the Western-derived "folk" and tin-pan alley tradition got sidelined in America when rock hit. This came from earlier music like The Mills Brothers, popular singers like Sinatra and Perry Como, all the "pretty" stuff that could in most cases be analyzed harmonically and traditionally.
    The blues stuff, on the other hand, seems to resist analysis in Western harmonic terms. It comes from major and minor pentatonic scales, and the progressions are not usual.
    The Beach Boys managed to get over using the "pretty" harmony. The Beatles were sort of in-between; The Stones went totally "black" in their sound, although they did try to remain "English" with songs like Ruby Tuesday, As Tears Go By, Angie, Play With Fire, and their "softer" earlier songs. But that eventually left that behind, by the time of Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, and the rest.
    A Lennon song that I think would make a good vehicle for jazz improvisation is "Bless You":

    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-13-2018 at 22:07.
    "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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