SOUND PATTERNS

A Structural Examination of Tonality, Vocabulary, Texture,
Sonorities, and Time Organization in Western Art Music

by PHILLIP MAGNUSON

CHROMATIC PROCEDURES III

Chapter 37. Linear Chromaticism and Distant Keys

Chapter 35. Altered Dominance
Chapter 36. Chromatic Mediance
.

37.1 PASSING AUGMENTED TRIADS

The chromatic harmonies presented thus far generally have interesting names, either technical or geographic, due to common use of them. This final chapter on chromaticism deals with sonorities that fall in the crack between harmony and embellishment.

A simple chromatic passing motion in a voice can generate an augmented triad, much like the augmented dominant of the previous chapter. They evolve from major triads, such as tonic and subdominant in major keys. The chordal 5th is raised through an ascending chromatic passing motion. The Roman numeral must include the "P" (passing label) as part of the analysis, like passing 6/4 chords.

This process can work with major triads in minor keys as well (subdominant, submediant, and subtonic).

37.2 COMMON TONE NEIGHBOR CHORDS

All chromaticism is linear in origin since chromatic pitches have such a strong inclination to resolve (raised notes to move up a half step, lowered notes to move down a half step). At times the linear rationale is so dominant that it is almost impossible to label sonorities with a Roman numeral.

Some linear motions can actually form identifiable harmonies (as described in earlier chapters of this text), but may appear to be out of context. The following example illustrates this: the Roman numerals are accurate, but they are also meaningless.

The chromatic chords are a result of neighbor motions in the upper voices, and are united by a pedal in the bottom voice. Rather than try to use a Roman numeral, they will be labelled COMMON TONE NEIGHBOR (CTN) chords.

37.3 DISTANT KEYS

Chapter 2 introduced parallel keys (keys that share a common tonic but are in the major/minor relationship) and Chapter 21 introduced closely related keys (key signatures within one accidental). Any given key has only one parallel key and five closely related keys, but there are 17 distant keys. This allows a composer a huge territory to explore chromatically. The greater the difference in accidentals, the more distant the key.

The table below shows these key relationships to C major

6b5b4b3b2b1b

c

1#2#3#4#5#6#
Gb
Db
Ab

Eb

Bb

F

C

G

D

A

E
B
F#
eb
bb
f
.

g

d

a

e

b

f#

c#
g#
d#

To facilitate modulations to distant keys, a substantial amount of chromatic material is needed, and sometimes complex relationships need to be explained.

37.4 ENHARMONIC RESPELLINGS

The integrity of correct spelling of pitches is important, no matter how difficult it may seem to make the music. For instance, B# is the leading tone in the key of C#, despite that many musicians would rather deal with a C-natural. However, as the Common Practice Period began to evolve, composers began to explore more involved chromaticism. It was inevitable that enharmonic respellings began to be used.

There are several harmonic areas which can be respelled to create new harmonies that move towards distant keys.

  1. The doubly diminished 7th chord divides the octave into four equal parts, and it is that symmetry which allows one tetrad to be spelled four different ways. This provides transportation to three other distant keys.

  2. The Ger+6 can be respelled to become a dominant 7th in the key of the Neapolitan (or as a tonicization in several other keys).

  3. The Fr+6 can be respelled to become another Fr+6 in a key a tritone away, or to become a secondary altered dominant in several other keys.

    Learn more about some enharmonic respellings

    Learn even more about some extraordinary chromatics

37.5 ENHARMONIC KEYS

As more distant keys are explored, it is sometimes convenient to respell a key with its enharmonic equivalent. In the example below, the global key of F major modulates to the key of D-flat minor (the borrowed chromatic submediant key).

That key signature has 8 flats; some musicians would find the key of C-sharp minor (4 sharps) to be more convenient. The enharmonic respelling of keys is always done for convenience, and has no effect on the ultimate sound of the music.

CURRENT CHROMATIC VOCABULARY:

This is the last chromatic vocabulary chart, but it should be noted that it does not cover all possible chromatic pitches that can (and do) occur in various compositions of the Common Practice Period. The process of chromaticism is complex and tangled, especially seen in this chapter about linear chromatic chords and enharmonic areas. A meaningful analysis of highly chromatic music requires a clear focus on the context of pitch to understand a given passage.

Notice that one chromatic scale degree has no chromatic harmony associated with it: raised ^6 (Li). There are also two scale degrees that have only one harmony related: lowered ^1 (De) and lowered ^5 (Se), and both of those are the oddities of borrowed chromatic mediance. Knowing the rarity of these situations can prove useful when doing harmonic analysis.

ASSIGNMENTS:

ANALYSIS

Provide a Roman numeral and Schenkerian analysis for the following pieces in Music for Analysis:

  1. Schubert: Quartet, op.168, D.112 [#274]
  2. Wagner: Lohengrin, Act. I, scene 2 [#344]
  3. Beethoven: Quartet, op.18, no.6 [#347] Listen to a performance

Links to chapters in this unit:
Chapter 35. Altered Dominance
Chapter 36. Chromatic Mediance

Link to previous unit: CHROMATIC PROCEDURES II: Modal Mixtures

Link to next unit: THREE ANALYSIS PROJECTS


Copyright 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.

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