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IB Music SL
Art Music Unit 5
Organization of Musical Sound
Organization of Musical Sound
Now that we have seen how the various
elements melody, rhythm, harmony, etc form the
building blocks of musical compositions, lets
consider how these elements, melody and
harmony, function to construct a musical
Musical Systems
The Octave
 The Octave is basic interval in all of music and of course the letter
name is the same for each octave because they sound so much alike.
 In physics, A vibrating string sounds a certain pitch. When the
length is shortened by half it produces a wave length twice as fast
and sounds an octave higher. The same happens in the opposite
direction at an octave lower.
 In the Western octave the octave is divided into 12 equal semitones
(half steps)
 From these are built the Major/minor scales: 7 pitches drawn from
the 12 each with a different combination which constitutes the basis
of our musical language for the last 400 years or so.
The Formation of Major and Minor
The 12 semitones make up what we call the
chromatic scale
All western music is made up of these twelve tones.
black keys on a keyboard are named in relation
to their white-key neighbors
And it takes Two half steps to equal a whole
The Formation of Major and Minor
White keys: C D E F G A B C
Black keys are in between the white keys
Up a scale sharp (#)
Down a scale flat (b)
Black key above C is C#, D is D#, etc.
Black key below D is Db, E is Eb, etc.
Remember that certain tones have greater importance than others
The first tone, the tonic, is the home base around which music gravitates
The two main types of scales are the Major and Minor scale
Function within this organizational system of major or minor
is called Tonality
The term “Key” refers to the home base and the group of
related notes in the scale in which the piece is produced.
Tonality is the basic principle at work from music written from
1600 – 1900 and still of course today.
The minor scale provides a contrast to the major which has a
lower third degree
Is different in mood and coloring
The Minor mode or scale pattern is: w h w w h w w
The Major Scale is the most familiar sequence
of pitches
 No black keys between E and F (mi–fa) or B and C
 E–F and B–C are called natural half steps
 Other white keys are a whole step apart
The Major scales pattern in half and whole steps is:
Major mode: w w h w w w h
Certain relationships based on tension and resolution are
within each major scale
The 7th tone to the 8th is quite strong, others include the 2nd
to 1st (re-do), 4th -3rd (fa-mi), and the 6th -5th (la-sol)
Tonic (do) represents the point of ultimate rest and
The Dominant (sol), 5th degree, represents the active harmony
Tonic to dominant and returning to tonic
The minor scale provides a contrast to the major
which has a lower third degree
Is different in mood and coloring
 The Minor mode or scale pattern is: w h w w h w w
Listen to Haydn’s Symphony No 94, in Major
and minor keys
Music that is clearly in a major or minor key
used the 7 tones of the respective key and is
called “Diatonic” – The melody and harmony
are firmly rooted in the Key.
Tones foreign to a key weaken the tonic
relationship which creates Chromaticism
Chromatic tones are taken from the full gamut of
the possible Western tonal system
Other Scale Types
The western musical system is not the only way in which music is
Non-Western systems and scales include:
Pentatonic, five tone scale – African, Asian, and Native American type
Tritonic, a three note pattern, in music of some African cultures
Heptatonic, seven note scales, also found in some African cultures
Microtonal scale, use intervals smaller than our half step and are produced
by inflecting the pitch (slightly raising or lowering or bending the pitch) used
in Blues, Jazz, Cajun music and traditional Chinese Music
Chapter 18 – The Major-Minor System
Active and Rest Chords
The 3-note chord – Triad - built on the first
scale degree is called – Tonic – the point of rest.
The Dominant – triad built on the 5th scale
degree – is the chief active chord always wanting
to resolve to tonic – Authentic cadence
The Subdominant – built on the 4th scale
degree – also wants to resolve to tonic to a
smaller degree – the “Amen” cadence
These 3 triads are enough to harmonize many
simple tunes
The Key as a Form Building
The 3 main chords – tonic, dominant, and subdominant
– are the focal point which melodies and harmonic
progression unfold
Contrasts between keys adds variety.
The use of Modulation – changing to a related key –
achieves this dramatic opposition
This creates tension and requires a resolution, provided
by the return to the home key.
The progression, or
movement, from home key
to contrasting key and back
outlines the basic musical
pattern of StatementDeparture-Return.
The 12 major and minor
keys could be compared to
rooms in a house with
modulation being the
corridor leading from one
room to the other.
Transposition – setting a piece in an entirely new key
Used when a piece is too high or too low for the
Why composers chose particular keys:
Instruments were unable to change keys because of no
valves or enough key holes
Certain effects could not be achieved in certain keys
Certain moods were associated with different keys
Modulation was common practice in the
Baroque period and refined in the Classical
In the Romantic era modulations were
more frequent and abrupt