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

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function of a strange kind of passing chord: it passes between the two harmonies by
absorbing each and combining them into an interesting simultaneity. Whitacre seems
drawn to these types of chords, which lend his music a sense of flow as well as
interesting harmonies.
The first ten measures of Cloudburst are given in Figure 24. The piece opens on
what appears to be a D major triad in second inversion. In measure 2, however, each of
the upper parts split: in each part, the upper voice holds a pitch of the D triad while the
lower voice steps down. Though this new sonority, an a(5,9,e)/0 chord, contains all the
pitches of the previous D triad, listeners will prefer to interpret this chord as a rootposition A minor chord due to the roothood tendency principle, as well as the lesser
structural significance of second-inversion triads in tonal music. This interpretation will
lead the listener to retroactively interpret the previous second-inversion D triad as an
upper neighbor to what is now understood to be the underlying triad of the passage. This
compositional technique of beginning with a second-inversion chord as an incomplete
upper neighbor to the following sonority has its roots in late common-practice tonality,
though the technique of stating the initial tonic via a triad with three added pitches is
unique to Whitacre. In measure 5 the bass part splits, stepping up to form an a(2,5,9,e)/0
sonority. This chord contains the complete pitch collection of A melodic minor and
cements the position of A as tonic in the ear of the listener. The fullness of the sonority
gives the listener the feeling of being awash in sound.