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

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I agree wholeheartedly with Cowell and thus will now endeavor to explain the
“effect” created by adding various tones to a pure triad. This sort of explanation is
necessary here because the average musician may not have the same degree of familiarity
with the experience of listening to an added-tone sonority that he or she might with, say,
a major or minor triad. I will begin by describing the effect of each of the single added
tones and will then focus on those tone-combinations that appear a significant number of
times in Whitacre’s music.132 It should be noted that, while the effects I describe are
generally applicable to a given combination of added tones, the degree and type of effect
may vary depending on the inversion of the chord, the number of each added tone present
within the chord structure, and whether the added tone or a chord tone is the uppermost
pitch in the sonority.
In the explanations below, the terms “dissonance” and “consonance” are used to
describe the intervallic relationships between the tones of a chord. In general, added
tones that form a semitone with one of the tones of the underlying triad will create
dissonance, while consonance can be defined as a lack of dissonance. This quality is
distinct from the terms “stable” and “unstable,” which refer to a listener’s imagined
resolution of a tone. Steve Larson defines the term: “To hear a note as unstable means to
auralize a more stable pitch to which it tends to move and a path (usually involving
Statistically significant would mean a 5% occurrence rating. However, since only one combination of
added tones (2,5) occurs in more than 5% of Whitacre’s added-tone sonorities, I define “significant” here to
be a mere 1%. In this case, this means 18 or more appearances of a given added-tone sonority.