|MusicNovatory/Introduction/Reference/Comments and Questions/Harmony/Basics/Modes|
Your web site has a section on Harmony where you speak of "4 strong modes." I was a little confused by this - in my music classes I learned about modes like "Dorian," "Phrygian," etc. How do these modes relate to what you are talking about?
A mode is a tonal system with a specific center or "chord of rest." A strong mode is one in which the chord of rest, or "tonic" is approached via a strong, or "dominant," type chord. (A dominant chord has a tri-tone between its median and its motrix). You may want to visit Harmony-Basic Materials and The Four Strong Modes to review these concepts. Two of the four strong modes occur naturally in a diatonic system. They are: the fundamental flattening (descending) major mode (the one everybody is used to), and its inverse, the sharpening (ascending) minor. The other two strong modes are produced by a process of dominantization. They are: the chromatic flattening (descending) minor (again, the one most Western ears are used to), and its inverse the chromatic sharpening (ascending) major.
As for the other modes you refer to, they have had different meanings and usages at different times in history. To the Ancient Greeks they meant one thing; to the church musicians of the Middle Ages they meant another; and, today those terms are usually used to mean something somewhat different still. The most logical and practical way of understanding those modes from today's standpoint is that they are simply what we would call the "weak modes." That is, they have a chord of rest that is not approached via a dominant chord. The chord of rest is made to sound as such by devices such as static harmony, a repeating drone note, or very carefully constructed chord patterns that do not use a dominant/tonic progression.
Is it possible to consider the diatonic major mode as basic material and the other 3 strong modes as transformations?
It certainly makes sense to consider the two chromatic modes as transformations, since they are created via the process of dominantization. The diatonic minor comes into being simultaneously with the diatonic major as its symmetrical counterpart, and hence might best be thought of as "basic material."
On the other hand, one might argue that diatonicism is itself a transformation applied to the basic material of free harmony, and, in a sense, subsequent dominantization is the "un-doing" of diatonicism. So, you see, you have raised an interesting philosophical question. We promised to give it some more thought, and we have.
Harmony/Basic Materials/Four Strong Modes/Preface - The Bach fugue in Ebm
We are happy to see that you agree with our suggestion of having the second entry on the fugue in Abm rather than in Bbm, which is the traditional choice when the Diatonic Major and the Chromatic Minor are considered as parallel modes. The advantages seem to be both harmonic and melodic.
As far as the "controversy" is concerned, we are not totally convinced that "Bach navigates flawlessly" to Bbm because he does it completely diatonically which does not seem in the style of the chromatic mode. There is room for far more discussion here.
There are countless tunes in the diatonic major and in the chromatic minor mode. Could you please name some examples of tunes written in the diatonic minor and in the chromatic major mode?
The diatonic minor and chromatic major modes have been stumbled upon by various composers throughout the centuries, yet they have not, to our knowledge, been recognized theoretically as self-sufficient, free-standing tonalities. Therefore, most of the examples we have found consist of antecedent phrases in the ascending (sharpening) minor which have consequent phrases in the familiar descending (flattening) major. Such examples can be found in the music of Couperin, Ravel, and Fauré, as well as in the theme to "Flashdance," for a more modern example. Rameau gives a clear example of an ascending cadence in minor in his Treatise on Harmony of 1722. The only popular tune that we know of that remains completely in the ascending minor is "The Volga Boatmen." The chromatic major mode occurs even less frequently, yet as a cadence, the ascending minor 6th to a major chord pops up quite often in jazz and popular music, as well as in other periods of the last three to four hundred years, where it has traditionally been analyzed as a half-diminished ii to I progression. This all goes to show that there are many possibilities inherent in the musical language which have not yet been fully explored and utilized. Hopefully the ideas presented here on this site will inspire some to take the plunge!
I was wondering if you guys could possibly include brief sections on the mixolydian and dorian modes on your website. (The
mixolydian seems to be just as popular as diatonic major in today's music, probably because it has a little more of an edge
to it.) There seems to be an order of feeling between these 4 modes, in this order :
At some point we may add a section on what we call the "weak modes" (as opposed to the Four Strong Modes discussed on the site). In the meantime, a very interesting way to explore modes while at the same time experiencing the
effect of Chrominicism is to do the following experiment :
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