Talk:Polytonality

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Fanfare image[edit]

I just added the picture of the Stravinsky fanfare to the page - I hope the size is OK. If anybody has any comments on it, I'd welcome them, because I hope to be adding some more music examples to various articles, and they'll all be about this size unless somebody speaks up (and I should say, it'll be a real pain for me to make them any smaller and retain good quality, much as I would like to). --Camembert

they look great. I'd say make them a smidgen narrower perhaps. What app did you use to make them with? -- Tarquin
Sibelius (www.sibelius.com) - I only have the demo version, but a musician friend of mine with too much money has bought it (a snip at £600). It's fantastically versatile, but I haven't yet found how to make graphics smaller without them becoming all bitty and nasty looking. I'll probably work it out in time - I agree with you that they could take being a bit smaller. --Camembert
The size of the notes is fine -- what I meant is that the widdth of the staff goes over the width of the page (when the browser is set to a comfortable number of words per line). -- Tarquin
Until about an hour ago, I couldn't work out how to fix that either! But I think I've got it now - I'll redo the image and upload a narrower version later tonight. --Camembert
I've managed to lop a bit off the width - how does it look now? --Camembert
It's great! :) -- Tarquin

Groupe des Six[edit]

Just a note: there's a ghost link on Erik Satie to Groupe des Six. Which is the better title for a future article? -- Tarquin

I've never come across "Groupe des Six" before - Google suggests that it is sometimes used by French-speakers, but hardly ever by English-speakers. Les Six looks like the right name, with Groupe des Six a redirect. --Camembert
In fact, I just checked the French wiki, and they have the article at "Les Six" (http://fr.wikipedia.com/wiki.cgi?Les_Six), which is good enough for me :) --Camembert
In that case let's edit the link on the Satie page for consistency. -- Tarquin
Done.

Problems with this page[edit]

There are several problems with this page right now. First, it relies too much on Reti, which is a rather outdated and not very reliable source. Second, the material about the debates over polytonality is weak. Music theorists are currently in sharp disagreement about whether polytonality is a viable concept or not. A clear presentation of the debate is important for the article.

The section on polychords is weak, particularly the section on the "origins" of polytonality. The Beethoven example is extremely tendentious, as the chords belong to a single key. An opus number as well as measure numbers should also be given.

The material on Bartok strikes me as misplaced, as well.

Finally, does anyone have a reliable example of polytonality (as opposed to non-diatonic scales) in Eastern European folk music? I'm a bit skeptical of the claim that bitonality is "quite common" in this music, and have softened the assertion.

I've revised the entry quite substantially, to try to deal with these various problems. Tymoczko 19:57, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

Do you have a source which contradicts Reti? How is Reti unreliable? Hyacinth 07:27, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
Reti simply isn't a well-respected scholar. Music theorists don't read him, his statements are often tendentious, false, and confused. See below for an example.
The "'Bartok' material" has been moved to bimodality. Hyacinth 11:12, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
Why is this material in a separate article? What are "contextual pitch centers" as opposed to "hierarchically determined tonics?" I'm not sure this is a viable distinction. At the very least, it constitutes a substantial music theoretical assertion with which many would disagree. Perhaps all tonics are contextually determined.
I've removed the following sentence:
  • While initially polytonality referred simply to "contrapuntally juxtaposed tonalities" it quickly was applied to any "simultaneous tonalities...that cross, overlap, complement or even oppose each other." (Reti, 1958)
The first reason is that it's not clearly meaningful. What, precisely, is the difference between "contrapuntally juxtaposed tonalities" and "simultaneous tonalities"? Both statements refer to two tonalities occuring at the same time.
The second reason is that it's historically inaccurate. If one reads Casella, for instance, one of the earliest discussions of polytonality, there is nothing to support any distinction here.
I've also removed the following sentence:
  • As above, polytonality may originate or be created by the use of other techniques such as the octatonic scale. Bitonality may also be suggested with an added tone a perfect fourth below the root of the chord:
An added tone a perfect fourth below the root of a chord suggests an entire chord with that tone as root
The reasons are:
  1. Many people feel that "polytonality" cannot result from the use of a single scale like the octatonic. The contrast described in the article is between polytonal music that results from the juxtaposition of heterogeneous musical objects (e.g. different scales) and single-scale music that is not typically described as polytonal.
  2. Why is the interval of a perfect fourth below the root at all special? Precisely the same assertion could be made for any other interval: tritone, major third, etc. So the example is misleading and adds distracting detail.
  3. The actual examples do not necessarily sound "polytonal." As described in the text, polychords need not imply polytonality, and all of the chords in this example can be heard in a single key.
Tymoczko 11:34, 24 February 2006 (UTC), 24 February 2006 (UTC)
I assume that the difference between "contrapuntally juxtaposed tonalities" and "simultaneous tonalities" is that "contrapuntally juxtaposed tonality" is tonalities presented simultaneously through counterpoint as opposed to, say, homophony. It doesn't seem far fetched to me that the concept would originally be described in counterpoint and then applied to other musical textures. What type(s) of texture(s) is Casella describing?
The Bartok/bimodality material is in a different article because you said it didn't belong in this one (and this article is no longer a stub).
For "contextual pitch centers" and "hierarchically determined tonics" see Wilson (1992). I believe that is his terminology describing the difference between tonality and modality, or between scales and modes.
I believe that given the controversy surrounding the term, concept, and possibility of polytonality and the variety of opinions around them, your assertion that polytonality is only possible (if at all?) through the purposeful use of two different scales is unsupportable. More importantly, I have cited a source which contradicts this assertion.
As for why the perfect fourth is special, see Marquis (1964). I presume intervals such as thirds are not special is because they suggest non-polytonal tertian chords. You acknowledge that the topic is controversial and if "many people feel that 'polytonality' cannot result from the use of a single scale like the octatonic" then many people may feel the opposite. For exmaple, one could argue that the octatonic scale is not a "viable auditory possibility" and that all use of it is polytonal (and I'm not arguing this, or asserting that someone does).
Hyacinth 12:07, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
1) If this is what Reti means, then it's wrong. Stravinsky's music, particularly the Rite of Spring, involves homophonic polytonality in the sense you describe. Furthermore, Reti is making a point about usage -- claiming that the word "polytonality" first meant one thing, then another. There's just no historical evidence for this claim.
2) I think the Bartok material can come back here, now in a section called "Polymodality and Bimodality." Just make the point that tonality, in the strict sense, is about keys, while there's something more general that involves modes.
3) I understand that Wilson finds a distinction between "hierarchically determined tonics" and "contextually determined tonics." What I doubt is whether Wilson's claim is appropriate for Wikipedia. The claim is connected with Schenkerian ideas about tonality being more "natural" than modality. There is no need for Wikipedia to endorse this extremely controversial view, especially when it is not needed. Just say that "key" means something specific (major/minor tonality) whereas "mode" is more general.
4) I do not think that polytonality is only possible through the purposeful use of two different scales.
5) The Marquis source you cite is a 40-year old textbook, and it is not widely used. The claim that perfect fourths are special in this context is simply wrong: one can certainly create polytonal effects using thirds -- for instance, Ab in the bass with a C major chord above it, can, in the right circumstances, be used to create polytonal effects. (NB: it's not the chord itself that does this, but the chord in the context of a piece.)

By the way, I'm not sure how to put this, but I actually am an authority on this subject. I'm a composer and music theorist who teaches at Princeton and is writing a book on tonality. I've published widely in music theory and have written about polytonality specifically. I say this not to pull rank, or to try to browbeat you, but just so that you know that I'm not coming from out of left field. Tymoczko 13:14, 24 February 2006 (UTC)

Correction: Stein 2005 appears to have been the source for "contextual pitch centers" and "hierarchically determined tonics". Hyacinth 10:36, 25 February 2006 (UTC)
I have not questioned your "authority". That authority means little to me in the context of Wikipedia as there is no way to prove that you are a teacher at Princeton or a college dropout in Missoula, MT. What matters (to me) on Wikipedia is the content you add and improve and the manner in which you do it (in a civil and neutral manner). So far you have proven yourself familiar with the topic simply through your discussion of it, so I have no concern that you are ignorant or an idiot.
It would seem in this case however that your credentials are an impediment. You say you are writing a book about tonality, which is great. Unfortunately this article is not a place for personal views and opinions but for verifiable views and opinions.
Hyacinth 10:51, 25 February 2006 (UTC)
I must apologize and clarify for the above. Your credentials are not an impediment. However, your possible willingness to promote one viewpoint as the only truth mentionable, would be an impediment. You admit that there are many views on the subject, and then you eliminate those you disagree with. Perhaps it would be better to use your experience and knowledge to verify conflicting opinions with citations. Hyacinth 07:38, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Hyacinth, the point is that you are being completely uncritical in your use of sources such as Reti, Wilson, and Stein. Furthermore, you treat them as authorities, and insert their views into your articles no matter how idiosyncratic or controversial they might be. As a result, you're making your articles worse

I am not at all trying to eliminate multiple viewpoints from these articles -- I put in a whole section on the debates about polytonality. What I object to is the presentation of controversial opinions as if they were neutral fact. This is what your version of the bitonality article does, with its controversial distinction between "contextually determined" and "hierarchically determined" tonics. Tymoczko 18:33, 26 February 2006 (UTC)


I take issue with this statement:

  • The psychological challenge holds that it is impossible for human beings to simultaneously perceive two separate key-centers at once.

I think it's very possible to experience two different notes as tonic. It also lacks any kind of citation, and -- though I don't know the rules on citations -- I think that a strong statement like this should have a citation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.124.62.60 (talk) 10:11, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Removing redundant and misleading material[edit]

I removed this senctence:

Rudolph Reti has defiend polytonality as "simultaneous tonalities...that cross, overlap, complement or even oppose each other." (Reti, 1958)

This is because it is now redundant with the opening sentence of the article.

I removed this sentence:

As above, polytonality may originate or be created by the use of other techniques such as the octatonic scale. Bitonality may also be suggested with an added tone a perfect fourth below the root of the chord: An added tone a perfect fourth below the root of a chord suggests an entire chord with that tone as root

This is because I offered several criticisms of it in the discussion section when I explained why I took it out. The editor who put the sentence back in did not respond to the criticisms.

Again, the issues are 1) that it is not a commonly held opinion of music theorists that "polytonality may originate or be created by the use of other techniques such as the octatonic scale." No source has been provided for this, and it is not a commonly held opinion. 2) While it might be true that "bitonality may also be suggested with an added tone a perfect fourth below the root ..." it is just as easy to suggest bitonality with other sub-posed roots. At the very least the example should be changed to show that the same could be done with thirds, tritones, etc. Otherwise we are providing misleading information.

I stress that these are not my personal opinions. Tymoczko 17:56, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Definitions[edit]

  • "A logical continuation of polychordal technique is polytonality, the simultaneous presentation, on different strata, of two or more keys or tonalities. It is possible to have a tonality without the functional hierarchy that produces a major or minor key. As in bichordal music, seperations of register are necessary to effect polytonality. Composers also often contrast the texture and rhythm between the tonal levels."
    • DeLone et. al. (Eds.) (1975). Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0130493465.
This definition isn't very good. "Sparations of register" are not necessary to effect polytonality. For example, one can get polytonal effects by separations in space (two different kinds of music in two different ears), separations of timbre (cf. "Wessel's illusion"), separations of rhythm, or even volume.
Please sign your posts on talk pages per Wikipedia:Sign your posts on talk pages. Thanks! Hyacinth 02:37, 18 September 2006 (UTC)

Sources[edit]

Again, the challenge in writing these music articles is that there is a lot of misinformation out there. You need to be very careful with your sources, and make sure they're up to date -- especially with a subject such as this. Tymoczko 19:53, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

When there are disagreements between authors Wikipedia articles should describe those differences, not eliminate one viewpoint or the other (WP:NPOV). Please describe how, according to Wikipedia:Reliable sources, the sources previously used in this article are unreliable. Hyacinth 02:51, 18 September 2006 (UTC)

Merge: List of polytonal pieces[edit]

Failed as no reason given. Hyacinth (talk) 08:18, 5 June 2009 (UTC)