Gravitational forces in a minor scale are essentially the same as those in a major scale. The difference between major and minor scales is essentially a difference of mood. The major scale is more vivacious and buoyant in character while the minor scale is more somber in character. This difference in character also influences harmony.
Melodies that progress from note to note in adjacent movement move in stepwise motion or conjunct motion. Melodies that progress from note to note by leaps larger that a whole step move in leaps or disjunct motion. Melodies that are primarily conjunct have a "smooth" and "flowing" quality while melodies that are primarily disjunct have a "rough" and "angular" character. A melody with mostly conjunct motion is said to be "lyrical". A melody with more conjunct than disjunct motion is relatively easier to play or sing.
A composer may use more than the seven tones of a major or minor scale to compose a melody in the Western twelve-tone chromatic tuning. Other than the seven tones of the major or minor scale, there are five (5) other tones available in both major and minor. The use of these other tones in a passage of music that is either major or minor in orientation is known as chromaticism. The individual extra notes are called chromatics (or chromatic tones) and a melody is known as a chromatic melody if it uses a large number or chromatic tones.
Within the body of a composition the tonal center note may change and other notes may assume the role of tonal center and be the basis for scales of a particular passage of music. A change of tonal center in a passage of music is called a modulation.
The Western major - minor tonal system, which began to unfold during the Renaissance (1450-1600), culminated in a high point of development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the mid-19th century Western composers began to explore new tonal systems. Church scales from the medieval period were revived; scales from Arab, Persian, Oriental and Indonesian musical cultures were imported; scales from eastern European folk musics were embraced. This quest for new scales continues in the latter part of the 20th century. In the early 20th century, just before World War I, certain composers developed compositional methods that evolved beyond the major - minor tonal system. These methods were known as atonality before World War One, and dodecaphonic or twelve-tone music after World War One. During the mid-20th century Western composers developed an interest in alternative tuning systems - systems other that twelve-tone equal temperament. This compositional activity in the 20th century led to new scale formations, which allowed for the creation of new melodic and harmonic "languages".
Melody contributes to the effect of motion in music. Since melodies are derived from scale pitches, melodies automatically assume the gravitational properties that scales display. The gravitational attraction of melodic notes imparts goal-oriented motion to the effect of any melody.
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When the gravitational effect of scale is coupled with rhythmic patterns in a melody, the effect of or sense of motion can be quite strong with the building of and subsequent relaxation of tension.
Melody displays hierarchical structural design. The overall structure of music and the overall structure of language in Western culture are closely related. The overall syntax of language and the structural layering of musical events in a piece of music are strikingly similar. Both language and music mirror certain socio-psycho forces of our culture, most notably our goal-oriented mode of behavior.
Westerners think, speak and write in phrases, sentences, paragraphs, sections and chapters. Musical structure is arranged similarly to this language model, and melodic structure mirrors this syntactical model of language very closely.
There is much repetition in "popular" melodies. The short units of these melodies are motives, and motives combine to make larger units of related material known as phrases. The length of phrases may extend from eight to sixteen measures and phrases combine to form complete melodies. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) composed his Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 which contains examples of motives and phrases. Indeed, the motive that begins the first movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony is perhaps the most famous motive in the history of Western music. Its fame is so much a part of the Western culture that it has acquired a name, "fate knocking at the door."
In Western music complete melodies are usually at least thirty-two measures in length and are made up of a series of dependent phrases which may "break down" into motives. The successive phrases of a melody are said to be dependent because they share motivic material and rely on each other to make cohesive "sense" as a complete melody.
From this description it may be seen that melody is formed from an hierarchical layering of small pitch units that recombine to form larger units of the whole melody. Repetition plays an important role in the building of melodies and, indeed, in the building of all musical structures. Repetition adds to the listener's ability to "know" a melody and be able to repeat it. Listen to Beethoven's Ode to Joy from the 4th movement of the Symphony No. 9, and allow yourself to understand that you "know" (can repeat!) this melody.
A video clip from the movie Immortal Beloved with
Beethoven's Ode to Joy occurring during the last few minutes
Melody is the primary repository of abstract "idea" in music. Language is the medium by which both spoken and written concrete and abstract aspects of reality are communicated. Music is the medium by which pitches are arranged according to parameters of duration, amplitude and timbre. Music not associated with text (instrumental music not associated with literature) is known as pure music. Pure music communicates non-literal and abstract sounds. Pure music is an abstract, non-literal language of sounds arranged in time. Music alone (without text) is not able to communicate emotional states but it may subjectively suggest these states in a very general manner. When text is combined with music, or when music accompanies visual action in cinema or opera, pure music is able to participate vicariously in a literal dimension. However, pure musics essential realm of communication is one of abstract relationships of sounds to each other with no attachments to literary meanings.
The subject matter of pure music is melody. Melody is the idea of music. Even though this is true for most world musics, melody is very important as idea in Western music. Western composers have conceived music from the impetus of melodic ideas which have served as the beginning part of the process for building longer compositions of music. The melodic ideas of a composition interrelate all of the composite material. Listeners follow melodic material in their "mind's eye" and respond to melody intellectually, emotionally and, often, spiritually. In Western music melody is supported by all of the other basic elements of music meter, rhythm, harmony, dynamics and timbre. It is possible to find world musics in which pure rhythm, harmony, or timbre serve as the primary idea of music, and this is true for some Western music written during the latter part of the 20th century.
Melody mirrors text inflection and heightens text meaning. With the evolution of ancient spoken languages there came a realization that (1) spoken language was inflected and (2) spoken language could be heightened (enhanced or intensified) by presenting it in a stylized (a special or non-regular) mode of delivery - singing.
All languages are spoken in a framework of pitch contour (the up and down melodic curve of pitches). Words and word groups are spoken on short but precise pitches that rise and fall. This subtle aspect of spoken language is known as inflection whereby the speaker controls highs and lows of the short pitches within words by use the vocal cords. Languages that have acute inflective characteristics are called tonal languages. In a tonal language the inflected pitches and pitch contours are as important to cognitive meaning as the written words themselves. The languages of China, Thailand and Viet Nam are tonal.
When the inflections of spoken words are greatly extended in length the result is singing. Singing was a very natural activity for ancient humankind. Singing is a stylized mode of word utterance, as opposed to speech, which is a normal mode of word delivery. Any stylized mode of presentation heightens (enhances or intensifies) the effect of the communicative medium whether the medium is words (song) or movement (dance). Words are enhanced and special meaning is bestoyed upon words when they are sung. The meaning of words is intensified and their impact upon the listener is "heightened".
Writers of song are very sensitive to the inflective contour of text. Such contour often dictates the curve of melodies that are written in conjunction with text. The inflectional contour of text may be directly translated into a melodic line. It is a very simple step from speaking to singing if one is sensitive to text inflections. When both text and accompanying melody have inflective interaction the effect of this interaction may enhance or heighten the text considerably. Singing and the melodic material which is sung combine to enhance the impact of the meaning of the words to listeners.
The ancients also discovered that sung text has an hypnotic effect on the listener. Sung text is found in all world religions. The original singing style for religious purposes was called chant and chant continues to be a musical genre in religious expression in modern times. The singing of religious text imparts an atmosphere of mystery to any religious environment. To the participant in a religious service religious text which is sung gives that text a heightened "otherworldly" character. The text, its meaning and the experience of the participants in the service are carried to a "place" beyond ordinary reality. The effect of such music is to mask the sense of reality in the environment. In this context the music serves as a vehicle for heightened spiritual awareness.
The word harmony refers to (1) the procedure by which chords of music are constructed and (2) the system by which one chord follows another chord in time.
A chord may be defined as a combination of three or more different tones conceived as a related unit and sounding at the same moment in time or arpeggiated. An arpeggio is a rapid alternation of chord tones each occurring with one following the other in time.
Although harmony is non-existent in many world musics, it is found extensively in the music of the West where it has gained complexity with the passage of time. Harmony is said to give the effect of "depth" to a melodic line and forms the accompaniment material to melody in a homophonic texture.
Many world cultures employ only melody in their music. Western music began as a melodic music only. It was not until the Renaissance period that harmony was introduced as a basic element in the music of the West. As a basic element of music, harmony continued to evolve in complexity until the beginning of the 20th century in the West. Although harmony is not an effective conveyer of abstract "idea", it is a very powerful and efficient element that contributes to goal-oriented motion in music.
Chords exist in a scale-tonal infrastructure. Certain chords project a quality of instability and tension and are known as dissonant chords while other chords project a quality of stability and repose and are known as consonant chords. A series of successive chords in time is known as a chord progression.
Chords require at least three (3) different tones in their structure. A three-tone chord is a triad. Chords may contain as few as three tones and as many as seven or more. However, three- four- and five-tone chords are most common. A commonly structured four-tone chord is a and a commonly structured five-tone chord is a 9th chord. More elaborate chords are 11th chords (six-tone chords) and 13th chords (seven-tone chords).
One "property" of harmony is "vertical profile" which adds sonic "depth" to music. The effect of three or more different tones sounding at the same moment in time creates the sense of greater mass and intensity of sound as compared to the effect of the sound of a single note.
Chords are constructed from low to high tones. The lowest tone of a chord is known as the root and all other chord tones are built higher in pitch from this tone. Harmony occupies the sonic "space" below melody.
Another "property" of harmony is "harmonic saturation". Minor harmonic saturation occurs when a few chords occur in a passage of music while major harmonic saturation occurs when many chords occur in a musical passage. Low harmonic saturation creates a serene and calm emotional mood while high harmonic saturation creates a sense of great intensity and expectation.
Harmony functions as accompaniment to melody. One very important aspect of harmonic accompaniment is the bass line or lowest harmonic component. A bass line is composed primarily of chord tones and is written in a quasi-linear fashion much like the melody line. In this context the bass line becomes a line of counterpoint (a secondary horizontal line) to the more important upper melodic material.
Like melody, harmony is also constructed from the raw materials of scale tones and, as a result, has "scale infrastructure" and tonal attributes of the major-minor tonal system. A chord may be built on each scale degree (tone) of the equal-tempered scales of Western music. Each scale degree may serve as the root of a chord to be built on that particular scale degree. In Western harmonic practice chords are built by using alternating scale degrees above the lowest tone. In the design of Western scales the distance (interval) between alternating scale degrees is known as a third. The interval between adjacent scale degrees is known as a second. Therefore, Western harmony is built by ascending intervals of thirds and is known as tertian harmony.
In the scales of Western music there are seven different general interval distances (2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves) and four different specific interval qualities - major, minor, diminished, augmented. There are two specific qualities of third intervals - major 3rd and minor 3rd, and, because of this, there are four different triad qualities - major, minor, diminished, augmented. Because of the two different third interval qualities, there are many different qualities of 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th chords none of which will be discussed in this general survey.
The reader may see that the terms "major," "minor," "diminished," "augmented" have been given double-duty as specific interval quality and triad quality. The terms "major" and "minor" are actually given triple-duty because they serve also as mode names. The author apologizes for this hodge-podge of interchangeable and double-duty terms but the language of "common practice" Western music is a hodge-podge of words with multiple meanings and any efforts are unlikely to be successful changing this nomenclature.
Chord quality is closely connected to emotional "mood" in music. The "mood quality" of the four triad sizes might be described as: major equals confident, triumphant; minor equals somber, pensive; diminished equals tense, restless, introverted; augmented equals energetic, restless, extroverted. This type of musical "psycho-analysis" is very subjective and serves here only as a general guide to an introductory understanding of music.
Since there are seven basic tones per scale in the Western system, each tone of the scale may produce simple triads or more extended 7th, 9th, 11th or 13th chords. These chords collectively are known as extended harmony. When harmony first appeared in the music of the West during the Renaissance, it was of uniformly simpler triadic construction. Western harmony became more complex during the next 350 years and reached a high degree of sophistication by the beginning of the 20th century.
Of the collection of triads found on the various scale degrees (tones) of the major and minor mode, certain triads have a higher function than others. Harmony, like melody, is subject to the gravitational forces of the major-minor tonal system. The effect of certain triads in a scale is said to be "restful and stable". This condition of any chord, interval or tone in music is known as consonance. The effect of other triads is said to be "active and unstable". This condition of any chord, interval or tone in music is known as dissonance. When chords change from one to the next, the term progression is used. Stable (consonant) chords attract unstable (dissonant) chords. When a less-stable chord "progresses" toward a more-stable chord, the term resolution is used. The dissonance-consonance (unstable-stable) concept in the music of the West is quasi-subjective and is the result of five-hundred years of cultural conditioning.
As there are specific names and symbols for scale degrees as individual notes, so too are there names and symbols for the chords whose roots occur on these notes. Each chord is represented by a proper name and a Roman number as follows:
The first scale degree of any scale is also known as the tonal center or keynote as it is this pitch that determines the tonality or key.
Any of the twelve pitches of the equal-tempered octave of Western tuning may be the tonal center. In the Western major-minor tonal system the chord with the greatest stability and "gravitational attraction" is chord based upon the lowest scale degree (tone) the tonic chord (I). The chord with the second greatest stability and "gravitational attraction" is the fifth scale degree the dominant chord (V). The chord with the third greatest stability and "gravitational attraction" is the fourth scale degree the subdominant chord (IV).
There are two levels of harmonic gravitational attraction - primary and secondary. The primary level of harmonic gravitational attraction is the attraction to the tonic chord. The tonic chord is the chord of most stability and attraction in relation to other chords that surround it. As a result it may "move" to any chord and any chord may "move" to it. The dominant chord is strongly "pulled" towards the tonic chord and this resolution gives a strong sense of finality or "arrival" at certain points in musical structure. Important structural cadences (points of punctuation or rest) are defined by the dominant (V) - tonic (I) chord resolution. This same harmonic progression is used at less strong interior cadences of compositions and interior cadences are often punctuated with the dominant chord alone. The dominant (V) - tonic (I) cadence is known as a full cadence. The subdominant (IV) chord is pulled strongly towards the tonic (I) chord. It is also pulled strongly to the dominant (V) chord.
The tonic (I), dominant (V), and subdominant (IV) chords are the most important chords of any tonality, major or minor. They are known as primary triads. Observe: (1) the triad quality of these three triads is major in the major scale, (2) these three chords contain all of the notes of the scale of their tonality, (3) the central gravitational attraction to the tonal center is established by the root of these three primary triads.
The Primary Gravitational Attraction of Harmony in the Major-Minor Tonal System of Western Music
Although the primary triads (tonic, dominant, subdominant) have the strongest gravitational attractions in the major-minor tonal system, secondary attractions occur also. The secondary level of harmonic gravitational attraction occurs by root movement (lowest tone movement) listed below in order of gravitational tendency:
(1) up an interval of a fourth, or down an interval of a fifth (2) down an interval of a third (3) up an interval of a second
The Secondary Gravitational Attraction of Harmony in the Major-Minor Tonal System of Western Music