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Thread: subdominant competing for tonal center?

  1. #1

    subdominant competing for tonal center?

    So to establish a tonal center (for a melody), you have to empower a certain tone, either by using it at the beginning or/and end of a tune, repeating it throughout the harmonic progression, or making sure you don't have a competing tone empowered by important intervals or placed in an important metric position. but the most important tool is to use it's fifth, especially at the end/right before your desired tone. basically a I-IV-V-I / i-iv-v-i would be ideal to establish a tonal center.

    but in modern times this sounds too obvious, too easy to anticipate so in order to confuse the listener the plagal cadence is often used. now, this doesn't disturb the key since the desired central tone is placed at the beginning (important metric position), and there's a V or v somewhere in the harmonic progression, before the IV/iv (the plagal cadence).

    but what if the V is missing, doesn't that change to center to the IV? what if you start with the IV and end with the I, isn't the I the V of the IV? for example here's a melody Borodin's Polovtsian dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCWFdfFyqMI#t=1m7s (if the link doesn't work its the 1minute and 7seconds that starts the melodic tune). i'm very rusty with harmonic analysis but in my calculations the melody (i'm always referring to the melody because we can harmonize it in all sorts of ways using very different chords), giving the key signature which indicates the key (and central tone?), follows this harmonic progression: iv-v-iv-i, or if we consider the (relative) major key it's ii-iii-ii-vi.

    so i want to ask you guys if i'm analyzing it wrong, or in general how do you see this iv competing with the intended i as a central tone. in the borodin example could it be that the iv doesn't become the central tone because it lacks it's iv in the harmonic progression? only the intended i has it's iv and v.
    ps. i want to separate chords from the melody line in composing, the melody has it's own harmonic progression, and it's the most important since that's what's remembered/hummed/singed by a single person, without the full orchestra behind it.
    Last edited by James Shaormer; 08-07-2016 at 09:59 AM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Shaormer View Post
    So to establish a tonal center (for a melody), you have to empower a certain tone, either by using it at the beginning or/and end of a tune, repeating it throughout the harmonic progression, or making sure you don't have a competing tone empowered by important intervals or placed in an important metric position. but the most important tool is to use it's fifth, especially at the end/right before your desired tone. basically a I-IV-V-I / i-iv-v-i would be ideal to establish a tonal center.
    Nope. It's i-iv-V-i in minor.

    but in modern times this sounds too obvious, too easy to anticipate so in order to confuse the listener the plagal cadence is often used. now, this doesn't disturb the key since the desired central tone is placed at the beginning (important metric position), and there's a V or v somewhere in the harmonic progression, before the IV/iv (the plagal cadence).

    but what if the V is missing, doesn't that change to center to the IV?
    What we hear as the "center" depends on many factors, but one of the major ones is conditioning.

    If you listen to some modal music, which often uses the plagal cadence as well, I will guarantee that your "Major-Centric" conditioning will make it sound as if the pieces "end on the wrong chord" to you.

    That's because you're trying to apply what you understand about tonal music to a non-tonal system.

    In "modern times", the real answer is that the music you're listening to (that using a plagal cadence) is simply not tonal music. It's "centric" music.

    It sets up a "center" by means other than traditional tonal cadences.

    So the absence of V does not "de-centralize it", but in essence, it "de-tonalizes it"!

    Still, a "center" can be established without V, but since most people don't make a distinction between "key", "tonality", and "center" (or key center, etc. etc.) the distinction is largely an academic one.

    For example, a song that just simply vamped between i and iv - or, someone played a song for me the other day that was just i and v - those could still be said to be "in a key" - and very often to the people writing them, who are ignorant of the distinction, that's how they're thinking of it, so it's easier not to rock the boat.

    They're really "centric" music rather than "tonal" and for the latter, an argument could be made that it's "Aeolian" instead of minor. But again those distinctions would be lost on the uninitiated. So we just say they're still "in the key of X".

    But the presence or absence of the V chord in either case has little to do with the "centered-ness" of it, because this style of music (as with pre-Tonal Modal music) uses different means to establish that center - "looped" progressions, or vamps, and things like those others you mention.



    what if you start with the IV and end with the I, isn't the I the V of the IV?
    Firstly, I think you need to understand that the whole "it starts with..." thing is really an oversimplification.

    In Common Practice Period (CPP) Tonality, Tonality is established by the pitch and harmonic content, and confirmed by a cadence. Within that paradigm there is a heirarchy of chord functions which are set in functional harmony - functional chord progressions, which are functional because of the structures of chords that are unique to a key (a tonality).

    Far and away, it's the ENDING chord that is most important to *confirming* a tonality. Beginning chords are actually of little consequence. Virtually 100% of CPP works end on the Tonic (exceptions are those works that are segues or transitions to other pieces to follow, but most of those may simply change to another key and still cadence on the tonic of that key, just not the original tonic).

    Starting a progression with anything other than I is totally cool.

    It is true that if you start with something obviously out of the key, it will take the listener longer to orient themselves. For example, Beethoven's first symphony famously begins on V7/IV - so at that point, we don't hear what the "real" key is until it's "revealed to us" later. But that's one of the beauties of the Tonal system - because you're "conditioned" to hear certain things in certain ways, composers can toy with those expectations. But momentarily sounding like you're in a different key does not destroy an overall sense of tonality typically.




    for example here's a melody Borodin's Polovtsian dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCWFdfFyqMI#t=1m7s (if the link doesn't work its the 1minute and 7seconds that starts the melodic tune). i'm very rusty with harmonic analysis but in my calculations the melody (i'm always referring to the melody because we can harmonize it in all sorts of ways using very different chords),
    And he does ;-)
    giving the key signature which indicates the key (and central tone?), follows this harmonic progression: iv-v-iv-i, or if we consider the (relative) major key it's ii-iii-ii-vi.
    Screw the key signature. Did you not just hear the A Major chord in the previous measure? That's the cadendtial chord. That's the Tonic.

    It's in The Key of A Major.

    The key signature agrees.


    The progression is ii - V - I - I.

    It has a pedal tone (the A note).

    Not only is this THE defining progression of tonality (Subdominant to Dominant to Tonic, or ii-V-I in this case) but the already established aurally key of A Major and the A Pedal Tone tells you that A is the center.

    The V chord is missing the definitive G#, but that's Borodin playing with is, just like he is with the pedal tone. I'd also like to point out that Borodin was composing around the mid-century (1850s and later-ish) and the Tonal system was "breaking down" or "being expanded" (depending on how you see it) in various ways. He's using these early pandiatonic and quasi-modal elements to harmonize a "folk song" melody, which was common with Russian and Slavic composers in this time period.

    If you look at the second part of the phrase, the progression is similer - SD to D to T again:

    ii - viio7 (note the G# on the bottom!) to vi.

    So this cadence uses a Pivot Chord and is a Enharmonic Modulation - from A Major to the relative minor of F#m (G#o7 is both viio7 in A and, enharmonically as E#o7, viio7 in F#m).

    The music here consistently spells the E# as F natural, but I don't know if it's that way in the original. But as such, again there are aural clues:

    Bm is iv, but it's in 2nd inversion, meaning it's not a Tonic chord. The progression again is (on the 2nd line):

    iv6/4 - i then ii%7 (G#-B-D-F#) - viio7 (E#-G#-B-D) to i (F#-A-C#)

    The key centers of A and F#m are pretty well-established. HOwever, what Borodin is doing is, "altering" things - using a melody that doesn't fallow the traditional rules of Non-Chord Tone resolution, which presents some odd tones in the melody, and by using the Pedal Tones and inversions, it's like it's "pointing to" a "true tonic" but never really gets there - he's playing with us - every time we think it's about to cadence solidly on some tonic chord, there's a "deception" and it doesn't quite get there (or when it goes on it alters again). He's stringing us along - holding our interest.

    Basically, once A is established, he goes to the relative minor, then plays a little back and forth between those two, then heads on over to E7 - at which point there's a long stretch of dominant-type chords, and progressions like V/V to V, or ii7 to V, etc. with all of these same elements as in the beginning (basically now over an E pedal rather than an A pedal, or F# pedal, etc.)

    When it "winds down", this big E7 idea really tells us A is the center. At about the 3:00 mark that E finally resolves to A (in the bass note) and even though it then moves like:

    I - IMaj7 - IV - I a couple of times, it's pretty clear that even though this is a Plagal cadence, A is still the center.

    I should note that the Russians were to some degree "separated" from Western Europe and it wasn't until the 1800s when there was more cross-pollination going on that we started to see "The Mighty 5" and "Tchiakovsky and the other Russian/Slav composer come on to the scene. In a sense, what they were doing was taking taking two elements from their culture: Sacred Music (and Chant and Russian Orthodox sacred music was still common and largely unaffected by musical developments in Western Europe) and Folk Music.

    They combined these two elements with Western Harmony in what we might today call a "mash-up" of elements and it produced "new and fresh" music to Western conditioned ears. And to a large degree, since it is not heard a lot (especially in the states) it is still very fresh-sounding.

    So this is "pushing the boundaries" of Tonality, but it's still pretty straight-forward harmonic progression.

    Every phrase has a ii-V-I or a II-VII-I or a IV-VII-I (all caps for numbers only, not qualities).

    It's all Sub-dominant to Dominant to Tonic.

    Sometimes, when we get to where the Tonic "should be", there's a "surprise" or alteration, and the music either moves to a new key, or the chord remains unresolved, or whatever.

    But that's nothing unusual even in CPP music (which spans roughly 1685 to 1850-ish - so he's right in there).

    HTH,
    Steve

  3. #3
    thanx Steve, it's earth-shattering to me your distinction of "centric" music versus "tonal" music. i mean i don't know any rules about how the first works i guess.. i don't know what to make of it.. i only see reduced forms of tonal music, or a more ambivalent form of tonal music but the language is still tonal (in my mind).

    you analysed the chords and modulations. frankly i don't fantasize that much over how borodin expanded the piece, i just liked the tune, even without any chord (although i like the harmonization/chords beneath it, but i stop it once the modulations and variations occur). i guess it's uncommon to analyze just a simple melody line. i assume we need an *interval root* tool to understand it's intrinsic harmony. often melodies have their harmony a third or a fifth higher than the chords' harmony. if you give me a simple melody in a minor, my first choice would be to put chords not an A minor harmony but an F major harrmony.

    it's interesting your view about starting with a modulation feel a melody line, i didn't took that into consideration. i mean i don't think about the type that elaborates using certain intervals that indicate a clear modulation, but rather a simple vague or undefined type of "modulation" by the absence of fifths or other clarifying clues. it may be that i'm used to more simple-"clear" melodies starting with the 1, or in shenkerian analysis, urlinie having the "head tone" as 8,5,3. (i'm not too familiar with shenkerian analysis, here's a quick link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_structure). again the 5,3 are "children" relating to the 1(in interval root analysis, or p hindemith). so starting a melody with a 4 (or a 6) would switch the root in its favor. very complex are these melodies in the way they combine the language of rhythm with a touch of harmony - a suggestive harmony that can be further irreversible clarified by some chords underneath it.
    Last edited by James Shaormer; 08-07-2016 at 09:49 PM.

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    [QUOTE=James Shaormer;156075].
    i guess it's uncommon to analyze just a simple melody line.
    Yes. Melodies can be analyzed in isolation. But you can also analyze the harmonic implications of a melody, its phrase structure, implied cadences, and so on.

    More often "analysis" tends to mean a "harmonic analysis".

    i assume we need an *interval root* tool to understand it's intrinsic harmony.
    Well, just a root. The root of a chord.

    often melodies have their harmony a third or a fifth higher than the chords' harmony.
    Hmm. You're kind of mixing some terms here.

    Melodies don't have their own harmony. They may imply a harmony.

    Chords don't have harmony either - they ARE harmony!

    If you're trying to say that a melody is often a 3rd or 5th above the Root of the chord, then yes, that's true. But they just as often have the root, or the 2nd, or the 4th or any scale note above the harmony. All are pretty common (though the chord tones are "most often" encountered and important).


    if you give me a simple melody in a minor, my first choice would be to put chords not an A minor harmony but an F major harrmony.
    Why? Just trying to be rebellious?

    If a melody is truly in Am, harmonizing it with anything other than Am harmony will likely come out sounding either just plain wrong, amateurish, or at best, comedic.

    If you really know what you're doing you can make it work. But the key of Am has a B natural and F Major has a Bb, so the two keys will be at odds. If done well, you could have an example of bitonality, but of done poorly it will just sound like a mistake.

    As for Shenkerian analysis: If you don't really have a handle on basic theoretical concepts in tonal music, Shenkerian analysis is useless. This type of analysis is not taught in theory courses until well into the 4th semester, or not until courses beyond the "basics" in theory.

    Personally, I don't find it to be telling me anything I don't already know in basic analysis, other than it mapping out things without all the extra stuff in the way. But, FWIW, the extra stuff is what makes one piece different from another.

  5. #5
    thanks, lol i wrote "tanks". i get the impression i have a shred of an idea about the basics, or "conventional" music theory basics, it's just that i keep forgetting the details, and meanings lol. i'll re-read/study your harmonic analysis. oh with the F major harmonization of an Am (implied harmony, as you refer to it) melody line, i really wanted to say an F lydian type of harmony, but that's what happens when i mix theory concepts too much.. i'm still trying to study (only) the melodic line's 'harmonic content' of the best melodies i like. i made a pretty big list. there's this type of melodies starting with the 2 of the harmony, but not really going to the 1 but rather the 5, are very colorful as they color the chords, but i just view them as having their harmonic content a fifth higher, basically a melody line built on the 5ft of the harmony behind it. for example taylor swift's style has a chorus based on the 2, never going to 1 but to 5. i don't know how one would analyze something like this with having more sense than separating the harmonic content of the melody line from the "orchestration" (chords, etc, harmony). a big tune like this is ment to be hummed all day long without hearing the chords beneath the melody, so it has to make sense on it's own. it cannot be considered just an auxiliary decoration of the chords. (the chord is D major, and the melody insists on sitting on e, so forming a 9th chord)

    i've also encoutered melodies who insist on the seventh of the chord beneath them. the same phenomenon happens. the melody follow the classic urlinie starting on 3 and going to 1, or starting on 5 going to 1. but because the melody has it's tonal center a fifth apart from the orchestration chords, it's "head tone" 3 (3,2,1 the classic urlinie) happens to be the seventh of the harmonizing chord behind it (on a Cmajor chord, a melody with the tonal center on G starting with it's 3 means B > results in a C major + 7th "feel"). if it has an urlinie starting on 5, that means D > C major + 9th "feel".
    if we have the melody line on the third of the orchestration, it's urlinie's 5 head tone is B again (Cmaj7 again). ok, i gotta go (for a few 3days). thanks for your time.
    Last edited by James Shaormer; 08-08-2016 at 06:29 AM.

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    A Taylor Swift melody is very likely composed *after* the harmony has been created.

    Most popular music is like that, which is bass-ackwards from the way music has been written traditionally.

    The earliest music was melody only.

    Harmony was then added to the melody.

    Thus it wasn't until the rise of instrumental music in the Baroque period (roughly speaking) that melodies started to become imbued with more harmonic elements (sometimes to the point they were more or less arpeggios rather than "melody" per se).

    What harmony any melody implies is soley based on our conditioning - if it goes 1-3-5, we're conditioned to hear that as a tonic triad.

    But a succession of pitches doesn't necessarily imply any harmony whatsover - it totally depends on how its written (to be more harmonic, or not) and how we're conditioned to hear it (as a melody that typically goes along with a chord progression, etc.)

    But, "learning harmony from melody" is a bad idea. You learn harmony from harmony. Learning harmony from a melody is only useful when the melody is obviously written to imply very specific harmonies, like the opening idea in Haydn's "Surprise Symphony", or Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nacthmusik" - there is very little question as to what harmonies they imply.

    But "I am the Walrus" - it's all "monotone" for most of the verse - so really any chords could accompany it.

    Totally depends on how the melody is written.

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