Download Added-Tone Sonorities in the Choral Music of Eric Whitacre

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tonic pedal, though in this case the emphasis seems to be on introducing the full
collection rather than emulating any harmonic motion.146
i thank you God for most this amazing day
Whitacre begins this piece on a pure C major triad, which then expands to an
a(8,t)/0 chord on the word “God” (see Figure 23).147 Whitacre gives a description of this
motion: “the first three chords … dissolve to the cluster on the word ‘God.’”148
Whitacre’s use of the verb “dissolve” here shows that he thinks of the pure triad as being
more stable or well-ordered than this added-tone sonority but also implies that the pure C
triad contained within itself the potential for the a(8,t)/0 chord. This may be because the
added-tone sonority only contains pitches from the C major collection implied by the first
triad, and also retains two pitches from the original triad.
On a structural level, the a(8,t) chord can be seen as passing between the C triad
and the e minor arpeggiations. Apart from the root motion by third, each added tone is
clearly moving in stepwise motion toward a goal. Here again, Whitacre’s tendency to
hold onto previous tones makes the sonority much richer than it may otherwise have
been. The ultimate goal seems to be an F major chord, which is reached at the downbeat
of measure four and sustained, with different added tones, for six full beats.
The default interpretation of all but one of the chords in this passage is that of a B-flat minor triad with
added tones. The chord on the fourth beat of measure three, however, defaults to a G-flat major triad with
added tones; this is an example of a situation where context would dictate the choice of a non-default
We have already examined this chord as part in the case studies of chapters two and three.
Whitacre, “Writing The Stolen Child, Part II,” weblog.