Tonality is a system/language of music in which specific hierarchical pitch relationships are based on a key "center"—the tonic triad; that is, on hierarchical relationships between the triads. The term tonalité originated with Alexandre-Étienne Choron (1810) and was borrowed by François-Joseph Fétis in 1840 (Reti 1958,[page needed]; Simms 1975, 119; Judd 1998,[page needed]; Dahlhaus 1990,[page needed]). Although Fétis used it as a general term for a system of musical organization and spoke of types de tonalités rather than a single system, today the term is most often used to refer to major–minor tonality (also called diatonic tonality, common practice tonality, or functional tonality), the system of musical organization of the common practice period, and of Western-influenced popular music throughout much of the world today.
Characteristics and features
The tonal system prevalent in the common-practice period is usually known as major–minor tonality, or functional tonality. In functional tonality, each triad has a tonal function in relation to the tonic triad, and with other triads in the key. Triads are usually labeled with Roman numerals. The basic harmonic functions are tonic (I) and dominant (V). There are three typical pre-dominant triads: II6 or II; IV or IV6, and vi.
Carl Dahlhaus (1990,[page needed]) lists the characteristic schemata of tonal harmony, "typified in the compositional formulae of the 16th and early 17th centuries" as the "complete cadence" I–IV–V–I, I–IV–I–V–I, or I–ii–V–I; the circle of fifths progression I–IV–vii°–iii–vi–ii–V–I; and the major–minor parallelism: minor v–i–VII–III equals major: iii–vi–V–I; or minor: III–VII–i–v equals major: I–V–vi–iii. The last of these progressions is characterized by "retrograde" harmonic motion.
Other scales or modes are often introduced for variety within the context of a major–minor tonal system without disturbing the diatonic nature of the work. The major scale predominates, and the melodic minor contains nine pitches (seven with two alterable). The seven basic notes of a scale are notated in the key signature, and whether the piece is in the major or minor key is either stated in the title or implied in the piece (there is a major and minor key for each key signature).
The traditional form of tonal music begins and ends on the tonic of the piece, and many tonal works move to a closely related key, such as the dominant of the main tonality (for example sonata form). Establishing a tonality is traditionally accomplished through a cadence, which is two chords in succession which give a feeling of completion or rest, with the most common being V7–I cadence. Other cadences are considered to be less powerful.
Consonance and dissonance
In the context of tonal organization, a chord or a note is said to be consonant when it implies stability, and dissonant when it implies instability. This is not the same as the ordinary use of the words consonant and dissonant. A dissonant chord is in tension against the tonic, and implies that the music is distant from that tonic chord. Resolution is the process by which the harmonic progression moves from dissonant chords to consonant chords and follows counterpoint or voice leading. Voice leading is a description of the horizontal movement of the music, as opposed to chords which are considered the vertical.
Traditional tonal music is described in terms of a scale degrees, upon which are built chords. Chords in order form progressions, which establish or deny a particular chord as being the tonic chord. The cadence is held to be the sequence of chords which establishes one chord as being the tonic chord; more powerful cadences create a greater sense of closure and a stronger sense of key. Chords function by leading the music towards or away from a particular tonic chord. When the sense of which chord is the tonic is changed, the music is said to have "changed key" or "modulated". Roman numerals and numbers are used to describe the relationship of a particular chord to the tonic chord.
The techniques of accomplishing this process, are the subject of tonal music theory and compositional practice.
History and theory
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Jean-Philippe Rameau's Treatise on Harmony (1722) is the earliest effort to explain tonal harmony through a coherent system based on acoustical principles (Girdlestone 1969, 520).
18th-century musical repertoire is commonly studied for the characteristic harmonic progressions, voice-leading, and forms associated with early tonal music. In 21st-century American music theory pedagogy, Bach's 4-part harmonizations of preexisting chorale tunes are canonical examples of Baroque harmonic practice. Students of music theory may be called upon to harmonize these same chorale tunes in the style of J. S. Bach, demonstrating their understanding of his style by replicating it themselves.
Fétis considered tonalité moderne as "trans-tonic order" (having one established key, and allowing for modulation to other keys) and tonalité ancienne "uni-tonic order" (establishing one key and remaining in that key for the duration of the piece). He described his earliest example of tonalité moderne thus: "In the passage quoted here from Monteverdi's madrigal (Cruda amarilli, mm. 9–19 and 24–30), one sees a tonality determined by the accord parfait [root position major chord] on the tonic, by the sixth chord assigned to the chords on the third and seventh degrees of the scale, by the optional choice of the accord parfait or the sixth chord on the sixth degree, and finally, by the accord parfait and, above all, by the unprepared seventh chord (with major third) on the dominant" (Fétis 1844, 171).
Fétis believed that tonality, tonalité moderne, was entirely cultural, saying, "For the elements of music, nature provides nothing but a multitude of tones differing in pitch, duration, and intensity by the greater or least degree ... The conception of the relationships that exist among them is awakened in the intellect, and, by the action of sensitivity on the one hand, and will on the other, the mind coordinates the tones into different series, each of which corresponds to a particular class of emotions, sentiments, and ideas. Hence these series become various types of tonalities" (Fétis 1844, 11–12). "But one will say, 'What is the principle behind these scales, and what, if not acoustic phenomena and the laws of mathematics, has set the order of their tones?' I respond that this principle is purely metaphysical [anthropological]. We conceive this order and the melodic and harmonic phenomena that spring from it out of our conformation and education" (Fétis 1844, 249). In contrast, Hugo Riemann believed tonality, "affinities between tones" or Tonverwandtschaften, was entirely natural and, following Moritz Hauptmann (1853), that the major third and perfect fifth were the only "directly intelligible" intervals, and that I, IV, and V, the tonic, subdominant, and dominant were related by the perfect fifths between their root notes (Dahlhaus 1990, 101–02).
By the 1840s, the practice of harmony had expanded to include more chromatic notes and a wider chord vocabulary, particularly the more frequent use of the diminished seventh chord—a four-note chord of all minor thirds. It is in this era that the word tonality became more common. At the same time, the elaboration of both the fugue and the sonata form, in terms of key relationships, became more rigorous, and the study of harmonic progressions, voice leading, and ambiguity of key, more precise.
Theorists such as Hugo Riemann, and later Edward Lowinsky and others, pushed back the date at which modern tonality began, and the cadence began to be seen as the definitive way that a tonality is established in a work of music (Judd, 1998).
In the music of some late-Romantic or post-Romantic composers such as Richard Wagner, Hugo Wolf, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Alexander Skryabin, and others, we find a variety of harmonic and linear procedures that have the effect of weakening functional tonality. These procedures may produce a suspension of tonality or may create a sense of tonal ambiguity, even to the point that at times the sense of tonality is completely lost.
Tonality may be considered generally, with no restrictions on the date or place the music was produced, and little restriction on the materials and methods used. This definition includes pre-17th century western music, as well as much non-western music. By the middle of the 20th century, it had become "evident that triadic structure does not necessarily generate a tone center, that non-triadic harmonic formations may be made to function as referential elements, and that the assumption of a twelve-tone complex does not preclude the existence of tone centers" (Perle 1991, 8).
In the early 20th century, the tonality which had prevailed since the 17th century was seen to have reached a crisis or break down point. Because of the "increased use of the ambiguous chords, the less probable harmonic progressions, and the more unusual melodic and rhythmic inflections" (Meyer 1967, 241), the syntax of functional harmony was loosened to the point where "At best, the felt probabilities of the style system had become obscure; at worst, they were approaching a uniformity which provided few guides for either composition or listening" (Meyer 1967, 241).
Alfred Einstein wrote that in ancient China, "the development from the non-semitonal pentatonic to the seven-note scale is certainly traceable, even though the old pentatonic always remained the foundation of its music" (Einstein 1954, 7). He notes a similar development in ancient Japan and Java.
Tonality allows for a great range of musical materials, structures, meanings, and understandings. It does this through establishing a tonic, or central chord, based on the lowest pitch, or degree, of a scale, and using a somewhat flexible network of relations between any pitch or chord and the tonic, similar to perspective in painting.
As within a musical phrase, interest and tension may be created through the move from consonance to dissonance and back. A larger piece will also create interest by moving away from and back to the tonic, and tension by destabilizing and re-establishing the key. Temporary secondary tonal centers may be established by cadences, or simply passed through in a process called modulation, while simultaneous tonal centers may be established through polytonality. Additionally, the structure of these features and processes may be linear, cyclical, or both. This allows for a huge variety of relations to be expressed through consonance and dissonance, distance or proximity to the tonic, the establishment of temporary or secondary tonal centers, and ambiguity as to tonal center.
Tonal music presupposes that notes spaced over several octaves function the same way as if they were played in one octave, or octave equivalency. Tonal music also assumes that chords within the scale have harmonic implication / functionality. Since tonality is based on the relationship of scale degrees, there is not enharmonic equivalency. For example, in C major, the notes C♯ and D♭ are not equivalent. C♯ is the raised tonic, ♯, and D♭ is the lowered supertonic ♭.
Though modulation may occur instantaneously without indication or preparation, the least ambiguous way to establish a new tonal center is through a cadence, a succession of two or more chords which ends a section, gives a feeling of closure or finality, or both. Traditionally, cadences act both harmonically, to establish tonal centers, and formally, to articulate the end of sections. Just as the tonic triad is harmonically central, a dominant-tonic cadence will be structurally central. The more powerful the cadence, the larger the section of music it can close. The strongest cadence is the perfect authentic cadence, which moves from the dominant to the tonic, most strongly establishes tonal center, and ends the most important sections of tonal pieces, including the final section. This is the basis of the dominant-tonic or tonic-dominant relationship.
Common practice placed a great deal of emphasis on the correct use of cadences to structure music, and cadences were placed precisely to define the sections of a work. However, such strict use of cadences gradually gave way to more complex procedures where whole families of chords were used to imply particular distance from the tonal center. Composers, beginning in the mid 18th century, began using chords such as the Neapolitan, French or Italian Sixth. These temporarily suspended a sense of key, and by freely changing between the major and minor voicing for the tonic chord, they made the listener unsure of whether the music was major or minor. There was also a gradual increase in the use of notes which were not part of the basic 7 notes, called chromaticism, culminating in post-Wagnerian music such as that by Mahler and Strauss.
One area of disagreement going back to the origin of the term tonality is whether tonality is natural or inherent in acoustical phenomena, whether it is inherent in the human nervous system or a psychological construct, whether it is inborn or learned, and to what degree it is all these things (Meyer 1967, 236). A viewpoint held by many theorists since the third quarter of the 19th century, following the publication in 1862 of the first edition of Helmholtz's On the Sensation of Tone (Helmholtz 1877), holds that diatonic scales and tonality arise from natural overtones (Riemann 1872, 1875, 1882, 1893, 1905, 1914–15; Schenker 1906–35; Hindemith 1937–70). The disagreement arises because if tonality were "natural", it would have appeared in other cultures [eg China, South Asia, Persia etc], and in western music before 1590.
Rudolph Réti differentiates between harmonic tonality of the traditional kind found in homophony, and melodic tonality, as in monophony. In the harmonic kind, tonality is produced through the V-I chord progression, <d> <t>. He argues that in the progression I-x-V-I (and all progressions), V-I is the only step "which as such produces the effect of tonality," and that all other chord successions, diatonic or not, being more or less similar to the tonic-dominant, are "the composer's free invention." He describes melodic tonality (the term coined independently and 10 years earlier by Estonian composer Jaan Soonvald (Rais 1992, 46)) as being "entirely different from the classical type," wherein, "the whole line is to be understood as a musical unit mainly through its relationship to this basic note [the tonic]," this note not always being the tonic as interpreted according to harmonic tonality. His examples are ancient Jewish and Gregorian chant and other Eastern music, and he points out how these melodies often may be interrupted at any point and returned to the tonic, yet harmonically tonal melodies, such as that from Mozart's The Magic Flute below, are actually "strict harmonic-rhythmic pattern[s]," and include many points "from which it is impossible, that is, illogical, unless we want to destroy the innermost sense of the whole line" to return to the tonic (Reti 1958).[page needed]
Consequently, he argues, melodically tonal melodies resist harmonization and only reemerge in western music after, "harmonic tonality was abandoned," as in the music of Claude Debussy: "melodic tonality plus modulation is [Debussy's] modern tonality" (Reti 1958, 23).
- Jim Samson (1977) suggests the following discussions of tonality as defined by Fétis, Helmholtz, Riemann, D'Indy, Adler, Yasser, and others:
- Beswick, Delbert M. 1950. "The Problem of Tonality in Seventeenth Century Music". Ph.D. thesis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina. p. 1–29. OCLC accession number 12778863.
- Shirlaw, Matthew (1917). The Theory of Harmony: An Inquiry into the Natural Principles of Harmony; with an Examination of the Chief Systems of Harmony from Rameau to the Present Day. London: Novello & Co. (Reprinted New York: Da Capo Press, 1969. ISBN 0-306-71658-5.)
- Roig-Francolí, Miguel A. 2008. Understanding Post-Tonal Music. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-293624-X
- Alembert, Jean le Rond D'. 1752. Elémens de musique, theorique et pratique, suivant les principes de m. Rameau. Paris: David l'aîné. Facsimile reprint, New York: Broude Bros., 1966.
- Benjamin, Thomas. 2003. The Craft of Tonal Counterpoint, with Examples from the Music of Johann Sebastian Bach, second edition. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-94391-4.
- Benjamin, Thomas, Michael M. Horvit, and Robert Nelson. 2008. Techniques and Materials of Music: From the Common Practice Period through the Twentieth Century, seventh edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Schirmer. ISBN 978-0-495-18977-0.
- Choron, Alexandre. 1810. "Sommaire de l'histoire de la musique." In vol. 1 of François Fayolle and Alexandre Choron, Dictionnaire historique de musiciens. 2 vols. Paris: Valade et Lenormant, 1810–11.
- Cope, David. 1997. Techniques of the Contemporary Composer. New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0-02-864737-8.
- Dahlhaus, Carl. 1990. Studies in the Origin of Harmonic Tonality. Translated by Robert O. Gjerdingen. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09135-8.
- Castil-Blaze. 1821. Dictionnaire de musique moderne. Paris: Au magazin de musique de la Lyre moderne.
- Fétis, François-Joseph. 1844. Traité complet de la théorie et de la pratique de l'harmonie contenant la doctrine de la science et de l'art. Brussels: Conservatoire de Musique; Paris: Maurice Schlesinger.
- Hauptmann, Moritz. 1853. Die Natur der Harmonik und der Metrik. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel.
- Rameau, Jean-Philippe. 1737. Génération harmonique, ou Traité de musique théorique et pratique. Paris: Prault fils.
- Riemann, Hugo; cited in Gurlitt, W. (1950). "Hugo Riemann (1849–1919)".
- Einstein, Alfred. 1954. A Short History of Music, fourth American edition, revised. New York: Vintage Books.
- Fétis, François-Joseph. 1844. Traité complet de la théorie et de la pratique de l'harmonie contenant la doctrine de la science et de l'art. Brussels: Conservatoire de Musique; Paris: Maurice Schlesinger. English edition, as Complete Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Harmony, translated by Peter M Landey. Harmonologia: Studies in Music Theory 13. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-57647-111-1.
- Girdlestone, Cuthbert. 1969. Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work, revised and enlarged edition. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
- Gustin, Molly. 1969. Tonality. Philosophical Library.[full citation needed] LCCN 68-18735.
- Harrison, Lou. 1992. "Entune." Contemporary Music Review 6, no. 2:9–10.
- Helmholtz, Hermann von. 1877. Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik. Fourth edition. Braunschweig: F. Vieweg. English, as On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music. Second English edition, translated, thoroughly revised and corrected, rendered conformal to the 4th (and last) German ed. of 1877, with numerous additional notes and a new additional appendix bringing down information to 1885, and especially adapted to the use of music students, by Alexander J. Ellis. With a new introduction (1954) by Henry Margenau. New York, Dover Publications, 1954.
- Hindemith, Paul. Unterweisung im Tonsatz. 3 vols. Mainz, B. Schott's Söhne, 1937–70. First two volumes in English, as The Craft of Musical Composition, translated by Arthur Mendel and Otto Ortmann. New York: Associated Music Publishers; London: Schott & Co., 1941–42.
- Janata, Petr, Jeffery L. Birk, John D. Van Horn, Marc Leman, Barbara Tillmann, and Jamshed J. Bharucha. 2002. "The Cortical Topography of Tonal Structures Underlying Western Music." Science 298, no. 5601 (December 13): 2167–70.
- Judd, Cristle Collins. 1998. "Introduction: Analyzing Early Music", Tonal Structures of Early Music, edited by Cristle Collins Judd,[page needed]. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8153-2388-3.
- Kepler, Johannes. 1619. Harmonices mundi [(Latin: The Harmony of the Worlds). Linz: Godofredo Tampechi.
- Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn, Richard L. Crocker, and Robert R. Brown. 1976. Sounds from Silence, Recent Discoveries in Ancient Near Eastern Music. LP sound recording, 33⅓ rpm, 12 inch, with bibliography (23 p. ill.) laid in container. [n.p.]: Bit Enki Records. LCC#75-750773 /R
- Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm. 1753–54. Abhandlung von der Fuge nach dem Grundsätzen der besten deutschen und ausländischen Meister. 2 vols. Berlin: A. Haude, und J. C. Spener.
- Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm. 1757. Systematische Einleitung in die musikalische Setzkunst, nach den Lehrsätzen des Herrn Rameau, Leipzig: J. G. I. Breitkopf. [translation of D'Alembert 1752]
- Meyer, Leonard B. 1967. Music, the Arts, and Ideas: Patterns and Predictions in Twentieth-Century Culture. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
- Perle, George. 1978. Twelve-Tone Tonality. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20142-6. (reprinted 1992)
- Perle, George. 1991. Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, sixth edition, revised. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07430-0
- Pleasants, Henry. 1955 The Agony of Modern Music. New York: Simon & Schuster. LCC#54-12361.
- Rais, Mark. 1992. "Jaan Soonvald and His Musical System". Leonardo Music Journal 2, no. 1:45–47.
- Rameau, Jean-Phillipe. 1722. Traité de l’harmonie réduite à ses principes naturels. Paris: Ballard.
- Rameau, Jean-Phillipe. 1726. Nouveau Systême de Musique Theorique, où l'on découvre le Principe de toutes les Regles necessaires à la Pratique, Pour servir d'Introduction au Traité de l'Harmonie. Paris: L'Imprimerie de Jean-Baptiste-Christophe Ballard.
- Rameau, Jean-Phillipe. 1737. Génération harmonique, ou Traité de musique théorique et pratique. Paris: Prault fils.
- Rameau, Jean-Phillipe. 1750. Démonstration du Principe de L'Harmonie, Servant de base à tout l'Art Musical théorique et pratique. Paris: Durand et Pissot.
- Reti, Rudolph. 1958. Tonality, Atonality, Pantonality: A Study of Some Trends in Twentieth Century Music. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-20478-0.
- Riemann, Hugo. 1872. "Über Tonalität." Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 68.
- Riemann, Hugo. 1875. "Die objective Existenz der Untertöne in der Schallwelle". Allgemeine Musikzeitung 2:205–6, 213–15.
- Riemann, Hugo. 1882. Die Natur der Harmonik. Sammlung musikalischer Vorträge 40, ed. Paul Graf Waldersee. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel.
- Riemann, Hugo. 1893. Vereinfachte Harmonielehre oder die Lehre von den tonalen Funktionen der Akkorde. London & New York: Augener & Co. (2d ed. 1903.) Translated 1895 as Harmony Simplified, or the Theory of the Tonal Functions of Chords. London: Augener & Co.
- Riemann, Hugo. 1905. "Das Problem des harmonischen Dualismus". Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 101:3–5, 23–26, 43–46, 67–70.
- Riemann, Hugo. 1914–15. "Ideen zu einer 'Lehre von den Tonvorstellungen'". Jahrbuch der Musikbibliothek Peters 1914–15: 1–26.
- Samson, Jim. 1977. Music in Transition: A Study of Tonal Expansion and Atonality, 1900–1920. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-02193-9.
- Schellenberg, E. Glenn, and Sandra E. Trehub. 1996. "Natural Musical Intervals: Evidence from Infant Listeners" Psychological Science Vol. 7, no. 5 (September): 272–77.
- Schenker, Heinrich. 1906–35. Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien. 3 vols. in 4. Vienna and Leipzig: Universal Edition.
- Schenker, Heinrich. 1954. Harmony, edited and annotated by Oswald Jonas; translated by Elisabeth Mann-Borgese. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. OCLC 280916. Translation of Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien 1: Harmonielehre. (Reprinted Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1973, ISBN 0-262-69044-6.)
- Schenker, Heinrich. 1979. Free Composition, translated and edited by Ernst Oster. New York: Longman. Translation of Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien 3: Der freie Satz. ISBN 0-582-28073-7
- Schenker, Heinrich. 1987. Counterpoint, translated by John Rothgeb and Jürgen Thym; edited by John Rothgeb. 2 vols. New York: Schirmer Books; London: Collier Macmillan. Translation of Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien 2: Kontrapunkt. ISBN 0-02-873220-0
- Schoenberg, Arnold. 1978. Theory of Harmony, translated by Roy E. Carter. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03464-3. Reprinted 1983, ISBN 0-520-04945-4. Pbk ed. 1983, ISBN 0-520-04944-6.
- Simms, Bryan. 1975. "Choron, Fétis, and the Theory of Tonality". Journal of Music Theory 19, no. 1 (Spring): 112–38.
- Thomson, William. 1999. Tonality in Music: A General Theory. San Marino, Calif.: Everett Books. ISBN 0-940459-19-1.
- West, M. L. 1994. "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts". Music and Letters 75, no. 2 (May): 161–79.
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