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-- Brad Delong

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Music Blogging

Sixteenth century modal music derived its harmonies linearly, from the interweaving of melodic lines.  The use of functional chord progression was sparing or non-exixtent, except in formalized cadences.  Thus, there was little or none of the the harmonic drive that characterizes music composed after about 1600.  To a modern ear, this can sound static, or pointlessly meandering.  But in the hands of a master like Thomas Tallis, it is floating, ethereal, sublime.

Take 8 1/2 minutes to sit back, close your eyes, and let this carry you away.

Nice shadow shot sunrise/set visual at no extra charge.


J said...
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J said...

To a modern ear, this can sound static, or pointlessly meandering.

It's pleasant for a few minutes, but static--and somber as a gothic graveyard. Melodically quite inventive, however. At times chants will have a leading tone, nearly a Dominant 5th chord. A very few chromatic notes--usually with the cadence. No modulations, as far as I can tell--

Mussorgsky's music was influenced by orthodox chant. Even Bach's old chorales feature chant-like sections, or modes....

Maybe play some groovy modal 'bone solo on top of it........

Jazzbumpa said...

To my ear, this music displays modal purity - no chromaticism, except in certain cadences, and then highly formalized. Modulation is not idiomatic to modal music.

This method of composition is archaic. The challenge for a modern listened is to rise above the static, and float with the ethereal.

Mussorgsky was an exciting composer. We're playing PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION in the Spring.

I can play a groovy modal solo, but don't want to mess with Tallis.

JzB the archaic trombonist

J said...

To my ear, this music displays modal purity - no chromaticism, except in certain cadences, and then highly formalized. Modulation is not idiomatic to modal music.

Yes, sort of what I said--though they do use the leading tone with minor, and methinx I hear the flattened 7th in the same chant--what be that, jazzman? Sort of melodic minor scale--fairly modern sound in ways. Ergo, in effect there is chromaticism, but limited.

Usually the monks sang a few chants in different modes, so in effect you hear modulation--major, then minor, or one of the other modes (some were verboten however--like locrian, ah believe, because it has a flat fifth--burnt at the stake for that theolonius monk chord).

My point was more along the lines of continuity--yes Bach, polyphony changes things to some degree, but modes were still used, as were cadences, etc. It's not until like Chopin that chromaticism sort of takes over...

Or listen to some of Schubert's obscure string quartets--quite intense, especially in minor key. Sounds a bit like Tallis or something gothic--tho' all instrumental.

Jazzbumpa said...

There are 9 short pieces here. Each is free standing. More than one mode is represented. I am not sophisticated enough to identify a mode by listening.

There are 7 pure modes, corresponding to the seven white keys of a C major scale on a piano.

C Ionian
D Dorian
E Phrygian
F Lydian
G Mixolydian
A Aeolian
B Locrian

You are right about Locrian. The flat 5th precluded a chord built on the final. (Which we would call the tonic.) The tritone was a forbidden interval in the church modes, both melodically and harmonically. Locrian shows up in Turkish music, where they are not so concerned about such things.

The irony is that Ionian and Aeolian, corresponding to modern Major and Minor, were almost never used.

Of those remaining, only Lydian has a leading tone to the Final.

The others have a flat 7th that is native to the mode.

Mixolydian, with major third and minor 7th, can sound a bit bluesy, I suppose. Dorian is used in jazz improvisation, a lot, so that can sound rather modern, as well.

But, really, no chromaticism, except the final chord, which was major, (the Picardy third) irrespective of the nature of the third in the mode.

I have a short treatise on modes somewhere. I'll post it if I can find it.

JzB the in-the-mode trombonist

J said...

The Aeolian is used--even in the selection you posted, I believe. But it's slightly altered--at times-- by using the leading tone (Ab) when ascending, and the G when descending, which is melodic minor (say in A minor). Or one might call it harmonic minor (the real gothic sound Bach loves), but when descending, they use the flattened 7th. And that was done even with chants, methinx, though not quite as pronounced as with Bach.

The mixolydian's a standard jazz and rock sound--Santana, dude. They are all still used--say Steely Dan. Miles Davis used the dorian mode, didn't he. A jazz player then adds, like, about everything. Evans may play a Dm7, maybe with 11th, etc but 'Trane plays like probably every note over 3 octaves or so (and some microtones), but hovers around the notes of Dm7 .

Jazzbumpa said...

The Church was adamant about the purity of the modes. No accidentals!

But, by the middle of the 16th century, Tallis' time, it was all starting to break down. By about 1600 modal music was essentially dead. Still, this music sounds quite pure to me.

Sure, Miles used Dorian. EVERYBODY uses Dorian! Though not in the way Tallis and his contemporaries did.

Speaking of 13th's - I'm writing an arrangement of O HOLY NIGHT that uses 13th chords in the final chorus. And they're totally foreign to the key. It seems to work, too. (B Maj 13, #11, in the key of Ab. In the chord, Ab is enharmonically G#, the 13th.)

Off to rehearsal.

JzB the chromatic trombonist