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Pandiatonicism is a technique of using the diatonic (as opposed to the chromatic) scale without the limitations of functional tonality. The term "pandiatonicism" was coined by Nicolas Slonimsky in the second edition of Music since 1900 to describe the free use in chord formations of any number up to all seven degrees of the diatonic scale. Triads with added notes such as the sixth, seventh, or second (added tone chords) are the most usual (Anon. 2001; Kennedy 2006). According to Slonimsky's definition,

Pan-diatonicism sanctions the simultaneous use of any or all seven tones of the diatonic scale, with the bass determining the harmony. The chord-building remains tertian, with the seventh, ninth, or thirteenth chords being treated as consonances functionally equivalent to the fundamental triad. (The eleventh chord is shunned in tonic harmony because of its quartal connotations.) Pan-diatonicism, as consolidation of tonality, is the favorite technique of NEO-CLASSICISM. (Slonimsky 1938, xxii)

Pandiatonic music typically uses the diatonic notes freely in dissonant combinations without conventional resolutions and/or without standard chord progressions, but always with a strong sense of tonality due to the absence of chromatics. C major is in fact the key favored by most composers using the technique. Characteristic examples include the opening of Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, Alfredo Casella's Valse diatonique, and Igor Stravinsky's Pulcinella (Latham 1992). An opposed point of view holds that pandiatonicism does not project a clear and stable tonic (Simms 1986, 63–64). Pandiatonicism is also referred to as "white-note music" (Machlis 1979, 163), though in fact occasional accidentals may be present.[citation needed] Other composers who employed the technique are Maurice Ravel, Paul Hindemith, Darius Milhaud, Aaron Copland, and Roy Harris (Slonimsky 1947, iv).

Slonimsky later came to regard pandiatonicism as a diatonic counterpart of Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, whereby melodies may be made up of seven different notes of the diatonic scale, and then be inverted, retrograded, or both. According to this system, "strict pandiatonic counterpoint" may use progressions of seven different notes in each voice, with no vertical duplication (Slonimsky 1947, iv).

Examples of pandiatonicism include the harmonies Aaron Copland used in his populist work, Appalacian Spring (Jaffe 1992, 30–31), and the minimalist music by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and the later works of John Adams (Dahlhaus, et al. 2001; Jaffe 1992, 28).

Pandiatonic Music[edit]

The following musical works include pandiatonicism.


  • Anon. 2001. "Pandiatonicism". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Dahlhaus, Carl, Julian Anderson, Charles Wilson, Richard Cohn, and Brian Hyer. 2001. "Harmony". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Daniels, Arthur. 1966. "Heitor Villa-Lobos: String Quartet No. 10" (review). Notes, second series 22, no. 3 (March): 1108.
  • Hepokoski, James A. 1984. "Formulaic Openings in Debussy". 19th-Century Music 8, no. 1 (Summer): 44-59.
  • Jaffe, Stephen. 1992. "Conversation between SJ and JS on the New Tonality". Contemporary Music Review 6, no. 2:27–38.
  • Kennedy, Michael. 2006. "Pandiatonicism". The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition, revised; edited by Joyce Bourne. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861459-3.
  • Latham, Alison (ed.). 1992. "Pandiatonicism [Pandiatonism]". The Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Machlis, Joseph. 1979. Introduction to Contemporary Music, second edition. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-09026-4.
  • Mann, William. 1963. "London". Times (December 27).
  • Schiff, David. 1997. Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue. Cambridge Music Handbooks. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521559539.
  • Simms, Bryan R. 1986. Music of the Twentieth Century: Style and Structure. New York: Schirmer Books; London: Collier Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 0-02-872580-8.
  • Slonimsky, Nicolas. 1938. Music since 1900, second edition. New York: W. W. Norton Company, Inc.
  • Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1947. Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. ISBN 0-02-611850-5. Reprinted, Schirmer Trade Books, 1975. ISBN 978-0825614491.
  • Slonimsky, Nicolas. 2000. The Listener's Companion: The Great Composers and Their Works, edited by Electra Yourke. New York: Schirmer Trade Books. ISBN 9780825672781.
  • Strassburg, Robert. 1976. "Ned Rorem: String Quartet No. 2" (review). Notes, second series 33, no. 1 (September): 166.
  • Waters, Robert Francis. 2008. Déodat de Séverac: Musical Identity in Fin de Siècle France. Aldershot, Hants., and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 9780754641056.

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