The Octatonic Scale

Arthur Berger

in Reflections of an American Composer

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780520232518
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928213 | DOI:
The Octatonic Scale

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The chapter examines the octatonic scale, which is the term to describe any eight-note musical scale. It has been at issue insofar as it interacted with the old diatonic scales to surround the tonic with a relational situation. The octatonic is capable of two scales with different interval orderings depending on whether it starts with the whole-tone or the semitone. It is a symmetrical scale since the dyad, whether whole half (TS) or half hole (ST), repeats itself throughout the system, just as the single whole-step does in the whole-tone scale. One cannot expect that any simple octatonic scale passage presenting the referential order unmitigated is going to suffice to create the octatonic ambience just as we encounter it in Stravinsky. If all the notes of an octatonic scale are similarly depressed at once, we would scarcely be able to detect anything of the octatonic sound, but we would also hear, rather, a cluster comprising an undifferentiated mass of notes out of the chromatic scale.

Keywords: octatonic scale; musical scale; octatonic ambience; octatonic sound; chromatic scale; symmetrical scale

Chapter.  4186 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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