Mapping the Triadic Universe

Richard Cohn

in Audacious Euphony

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199772698
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932238 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Music Theory

Mapping the Triadic Universe

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Chapter 1 suggests that the eighteenth century gauge of triadic distance, based on diatonic proximity, may not be appropriate for all nineteenth century music. Tonally disjunct pairs of triads can be heard as conjunct on the basis of other systems of measurement. The chapter proposes two related systems, based on common tones and semitonal voice leading; the proposals are consistent with aspects of nineteenth century harmonic theory. The more general point is that a theory of nineteenth century harmony need not be based exclusively on classical conceptions of the harmonic universe. Precedents for this point are found in Fétis (1844) and Kurth (1920), and traced through more recent approaches to chromatic harmony. These adumbrations notwithstanding, no fully ramified theory of nineteenth century harmony has emerged to date; indeed, the various denominations of harmonic theory and their associated pedagogies continue to purvey the view that nineteenth century harmony is fundamentally rooted in principles of classical harmony. The chapter explores three reasons for this circumstance.

Keywords: triadic distance; fétis; kurth; chromaticism; voice leading

Chapter.  7845 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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