Mixolydian mode may refer to one of three things: the name applied to one of the ancient Greek harmoniai or tonoi, based on a particular octave species or scale; one of the medieval church modes; a modern musical mode or diatonic scale, related to the medieval mode. (The Hypomixolydian mode of medieval music, by contrast, has no modern counterpart.)
The idea of a Mixolydian mode comes from the music theory of ancient Greece. The ancient Greek Mixolydian mode was invented by Sappho, the 7th century B.C. poet and musician. However, what the ancient Greeks thought of as Mixolydian was very different from the modern interpretation of the mode.
In Greek theory, the Mixolydian tonos (the term "mode" is a later Latin term) employs a scale (or "octave species") corresponding to the Greek Hypolydian mode inverted: in its diatonic genus, this is a scale descending from paramese to hypate hypaton: in the diatonic genus, a whole tone (paramese to mese) followed by two conjunct inverted Lydian tetrachords (each being two whole tones followed by a semitone descending). This diatonic genus of the scale is roughly the equivalent of playing all the "white notes" of a piano from B to B, or B | A G F E | (E) D C B, which is also known as modern Locrian mode. (In the chromatic and enharmonic genera, each tetrachord consists of a minor third plus two semitones, and a major third plus two quarter-tones, respectively).
Medieval Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian
The term Mixolydian was originally used to designate one of the traditional harmoniai of Greek theory. It was appropriated later (along with six other names) by 2nd-century theorist Ptolemy to designate his seven tonoi or transposition keys. Four centuries later, Boethius interpreted Ptolemy in Latin, still with the meaning of transposition keys, not scales. When chant theory was first being formulated in the 9th century, these seven names plus an eighth, Hypermixolydian (later changed to Hypomixolydian), were again re-appropriated in the anonymous treatise Alia Musica. A commentary on that treatise, called the Nova expositio, first gave it a new sense as one of a set of eight diatonic species of the octave, or scales. The name Mixolydian came to be applied to one of the eight modes of medieval church music: the seventh mode. This mode does not run from B to B on white notes, as the Greek mode, but was defined in two ways: as the diatonic octave species from G up one octave to the G above, or as a mode whose final was G and whose ambitus runs from the F below the final to the G above, with possible extensions "by licence" up to A above and even down to E below, and in which the note D (the tenor of the corresponding seventh psalm tone) had an important melodic function. This medieval theoretical construction led to the modern use of the term for the natural scale from G to G.
The seventh mode of western church music is an authentic mode based on and encompassing the natural scale from G to G, with the perfect fifth (the D in a G to G scale) as the dominant, reciting note or tenor.
The plagal eighth mode was termed Hypomixolydian (or "lower Mixolydian") and, like the Mixolydian, was defined in two ways: as the diatonic octave species from D to the D an octave higher, divided at the mode final, G (thus D–E–F–G + G–A–B–C–D); or as a mode with a final of G and an ambitus from C below the final to E above it, in which the note C (the tenor of the corresponding eighth psalm tone) had an important melodic function.
This modern scale has the same series of tones and semitones as the major scale, except the seventh degree is a semitone lower. The Mixolydian mode is sometimes called the dominant scale, because it is the mode built on the fifth degree (the dominant) of the major scale. The flattened seventh of the scale is a tritone away from the mediant (major-third degree) of the key.
The order of tones and semitones in a Mixolydian scale is TTSTTST (T = tone; S = semitone), while the major scale is TTSTTTS. The key signature varies accordingly (it will be the same as that of the major key a fifth below).
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- The G Mixolydian mode (related to the key of C major – on a piano it is all the white keys from one G to the next: GABCDEFG)
- The C Mixolydian mode (related to the key of F major – CDEFGAB♭C)
- The D Mixolydian mode (related to the key of G major – DEF♯GABCD)
- The E Mixolydian mode (related to the key of A major – EF♯G♯ABC♯DE)
- The A Mixolydian mode (related to the key of D major – the scale used on the Great Highland Bagpipes: ABC♯DEF♯GA. This scale applies to the bagpipes in name only. The tonic note of bagpipes, A, is currently pitched in between B♭ and B without special adaptation of the instrument.[clarification needed]
Moloch scale is the name used by Klezmer musicians for the Mixolydian scale, to which it is identical. In Klezmer, it is usually transposed to C, where the main chords used are C, F, and G7 (sometimes Gm).
Notable music in Mixolydian mode
- "Let It Loose" by The Rolling Stones
- "Marquee Moon" by Television
- Theme From Star Trek
- "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- "Sweet Child o' Mine" (solo is in E♭ natural minor) by Guns N' Roses
- "Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles (with some verses in Dorian mode)
- The Allman Brothers Band's "Ramblin' Man" (with blues flavoring)
- "Gloria" by Them
- "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot
- "Express Yourself" by Madonna
- "You and I" by Lady Gaga
- "Hey Jude" by the Beatles ("outro" section only)
- "Dark Star" by the Grateful Dead, modal in A Mixolydian
- "Morning Mr Magpie" by Radiohead
- "Royals" by Lorde
- Khamaj, the equivalent scale in Indian classical music.
- V-IV-I turnaround, a common modal chord progression when spelled as I - ♭VII - IV
- Backdoor cadence
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- Anne Carson (ed.), If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (New York: Vintage Books, 2002), p. ix. ISBN 978-0-375-72451-0. Carson cites Pseudo-Plutarch, On Music 16.113c, who in turn names Aristoxenus as his authority.
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- Harold S. Powers and Frans Wiering, "Hypomixolydian", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, 29 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 12:38 (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001) ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5.
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- Kenneth Womack and Todd F. Davis, Reading the Beatles: Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and the Fab Four (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006): p. 45. ISBN 978-0-7914-6715-2 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-7914-6716-9 (pbk).
- Ken Stephenson, What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), p.39. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4.
- Albin Zak III. The Velvet Underground Companion: Four Decades of Commentary. (New York: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice Hall International, 2010). p. 333. ISBN 9780825672422.
- Lloyd Whitesell (2008). The Music of Joni Mitchell. Oxford University Press. p. 119. ISBN 0199719098.
- Stefani Germanotta. "Digital Sheet Music – Lady Gaga – You and I". Musicnotes.com, 2011 (Sony/ATV Music Publishing).
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