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

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complete major or minor triad as the underlying triad, rather than a triad that is only
partially represented within the sonority. This follows the same logic as the root
inclusion rule: it is simpler for listeners to accept a complete triad that is already present
within the chord than to aurally imagine additional notes.123 The complete triad rule does
not affect our example interpretation; each possible triad is already complete, since the
chord type is a full-collection sonority. However, this rule is the deciding factor in the
seemingly intuitive choice to interpret the chord type 0247 as a root-position major triad
with added 2 rather than a triad of ambiguous quality with 7 as root, 2 as fifth, and 0 and
4 as added tones.
A fourth consideration relevant to the triadic interpretation of Whitacre’s
sonorities is the structural significance of the bass tone. In tonal theory, the lowestsounding note in any sonority is generally considered of primary importance when
determining the function of a chord, which is why both figured bass and Roman numeral
notation preserve information about the bass tone of a chord. Because traditional tonal
music emphasizes the structural importance of the bass tone, I suggest that listeners will
prefer an interpretation that recognizes the bass tone of a chord as a member of the
underlying triad.124 The rule of bass tone inclusion thus reduces the six potential roots in
our 013578t example to three: 0 as the root of a minor triad, 0 as the third of a major triad
based on 8, and 0 as the fifth of a major triad based on 5.
If no complete triad exists within the sonority, of course, listeners will be forced to imagine such notes.
If the bass tone is not a member of any complete triad, listeners will interpret the bass as a nonharmonic
tone ornamenting the underlying triad, as in the pedal point of traditional tonal theory.