Biblioteca de la Guitarra y Cuerda Pulsada

Biblioteca de la Guitarra y Cuerda Pulsada

The Consecutive-Semitone Constraint on Scalar Structure: A Link Between Impressionism and Jazz

Tonality is often described as a relationship between pitches and chords belonging to a single scale: in composing a melody to go with a (major) I-ii-V-I progression, the student of tonal music is taught to use pitches drawn from one diatonic collection.  Minor-mode harmony, however, is invariably polyscalar.  Both modal mixture and the use of secondary dominant chords increase the scalar density of tonal harmony.  Impressionist composer and jazz musicians continued this process, regularly using all four of the locally diatonic scales (1), as well as (more sporadically) the other three scales derived in Section I-B (2).  The result is a fascinating blend of middle ground diatonicism and local chromaticism, a music in which the qualities of "tension" and "release" are the products both of shifts between different scalar collections and of background movement among regions of a single, diatonic scale.  Listening to Ravel's "Ondine" or to a sophisticated jazz musician improvise over standard tonal changes, one hears a curiously hybrid sound - a dense and difficult chromaticism that still seems rooted in elementary principles of tonal...

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