The enigmatic scale (scala enigmatica) is an unusual musical scale, with elements of both major and minor scales, as well as the whole-tone scale. It was originally published in a Milan journal as a musical challenge, with an invitation to harmonize it in some way.
Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, who supposedly invented the scale[not in citation given] actually returned to composition with this, "arbitrary scale," in his "Ave Maria (sulla scala enigmatica)" (1889, revised 1898), in response to a challenge printed in the Milan Gazzetta musicale to employ a musical conundrum. The "Ave Maria", compiled as part of the Quattro Pezzi Sacri (1898) [4 sacred pieces], has been described as, "that still almost incomprehensible into-one-another-gliding of harmonies over the entirely 'unnatural' scala enigmatica". The piece features the scale both in its harmonies and as a cantus firmus throughout the short piece in half-note values in the bass and then each successively higher voice accompanying, "queer counterpoint which...is far-fetched and difficult of intonation; [and] the total effect is almost, if not quite, as musical as it is curious".
The scale, (written out beginning on G) is as follows:
- G, A♭, B, C♯, D♯, E♯, F♯, G
And has a formula of: T - m2 - M3 - ♯4 - ♯5 - ♯6 - M7 - 8ve.
With the musical steps as following: Semitone, Tone and a half, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Semitone.
The scale lacks a perfect fourth and a perfect fifth above the starting note. Both the fourth and fifth degrees of a scale form the basis of standard chord progressions, which help establish the tonic.
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