Music since Perotin


I make timelines that mark major shocks and major innovations. This is subjective, but I don't consider myself an alien or an outlier.

For example, the heroic ethos and its echoes --

Homer -- Vergil -- Dante -- Ossian -- Joyce

In terms of impact, here is my subjective impression of harmonic signs and sounds since Perotin. There are developments in quasi discrete or partially intersecting spheres, but I'm trying to focus on harmonies and phrase endings.

I'm not talking about intellectual abstractions, but about expressive things. But perhaps what I consider overforegrounding things are beyond expressive. They are dazzling or emphatic. This is what made Beethoven hard to swallow for the Rossini fans. He was emphatic with his sfortzandos.

Lydian mode -- Lydian cadence -- 4-3 suspensions at cadences-- C 6/4 -- #9 moves -- half dim7 and V7 (inversions of one another and becoming Symboliste Eros & Thanatos)--Dominant 9 chord (Ravel, Ponce, Schoenberg op. 27#4)--and from here it's too current and therefore too messy and unsettled -- 0167 is all over Schoenberg -- 0145 is in Britten & Henze and so much else -- All Trichord Hexachord is Carter's strange attractor -- (in progress)

Personal favorites of beloved composers --

Dominant 11 -- Chopin
The Dominant7 sus4 I was taught that this is characteristic of Brahms.

Such a timeline, spanning centuries, is a reasonable perspective for a discussion of social construction. To say "out with Schoenberg and in with Sibelius" or "out with the evil modernists and in with Philip Glass" -- these are family quarrels, focused on a trivial time scale.

I think I'm getting at something like a stopper in Bridge --overforegrounding (making us forget previous felicities like 7-6 suspensions and 4-3 suspensions.

Sense of direction

The age of ficta did not find a definitive sense of beginning and end, forward and backward. That emerges in ABA form and JS Bach figured it all out. Ficta -- pick your accidental -- was loose and freeform, but the lydian cadences tie it all up with a bow. We get some kind of sense of direction through the powerfu finality of Lydian cadence. This is not operative in post-tonal music. We've discarded what Bach did, but many practitioners still understand and use wondrfully these overforegrounding things.

Lydian mode --

Perotin is steeped in some Platonic and neoplatonic concepts that he set in motion in the relationship between his slowly moving bass line and his fast moving and rich counterpoint. I go to the introduction of Cirlot's Dictionary of Symbols for this list:

--Plato, taken up later by the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite: ‘What is perceptible to the senses is the reflection of what is intelligible to the mind’

--Per visibilia ad invisibilia’ (Romans i, 20)

--Tabula Smaragdina: ‘What is below is like what is above (Tabula Smaragdina)

--What is perceptible to the senses is sa reflection of what is intelligible to the mind. (Plato)

--What is within is also without. (Goethe)

These values are ever present, ahistorical. In Perotin, contrasts in intervalic content come about through modal inflections as the slow moving cantus firmus in the bass progresses throught the piece. The Lydian moments, when the bass stays on the 4th scale degress for a spell, tend to make us sit up straight for a moment. In the Lydian mode, every scale degree is a sharp is it can get.

Steve Reich avows his descent from Perotin. Reich's movement 2 of Electric Counterpoint moves through the modes. All the modal shifts grab us, especially the shift to Lydian.

Lydian mode -- Lydian cadence --

The Lydian in Perotin congeals into the Lydian cadence.

My Lydian cadence is too polite. Needs more punch.

We should not be surprised to find the double leading tone cadence, aka the Machaut cadence, aka the Lydian cadence emerge as a wonderful over-foregrounding device that grabs us by the lapels. But the phrases that precede the Lydian cadence are very loose. There are non-harmonic tones that are served beautifully, not to be missed, and yet the Lydian cadence erases those. The Lydian cadence outweights the smple and beautifully expressive non-harmonic tones. And so I ask if the lydian cadence is too powerful to be considered beautiful. Maybe.

Ficta -- accidentals are left to the players. (Anthony Braxton has a special accidental that means--you choose #, b, or nat!). The music develops wonderfully and inuitively, very freeform, but the Lydian cadence rounds it all off and puts a period at the end, or an exclamation point. The discretionary nature of ficta takes Bach's strategy off the table.

What's missing is what Bach nails down, a sense of direction, a clear vision of what a beginning and an ending are.

Bach's A section begins on I and ends on V, or i and v.
Bach's B section begins on V and ends on I
The tunes in the B section are the inversion of the tunes in the A section, a microcosm of the larger relationship -- A -- up a 5th, B -- down a 5th.

This enlarges upon Perotin's concern for the microcomsic/macrocosmic relationships. And the movement toward V can be decidedly Lydian in flavor. To modulate to V, one must raise the 4th scale degree. At the end of the B section a mixolydian move in the flat direction balances the form. All the elements that clarify forward and backward, defining the roles of the A section and the B section, solidify tonal counterpoint vs. modal counterpoint. This is all over-simplified in Rameu.

Chord function is parallel to foregrounding events.

All the elements that clarify forward and backward, define the A section and the B section, solidify tonal counterpoint vs. modal counterpoint.

Lydian mode -- Lydian cadence -- 4-3 suspensions at cadences

In the Renaissance, 4-3 suspensions supplant the Lydian cadence as the phrase ending event. It's glorious; it's cosmic, but it's more gentle than the Lydian cadence. A Lydian cadence overforegrounds a 4-3 suspension. See Galvado's Cancionero, Siglo XV. Little phrases ending with a 4-3 felicity, but with the Lydian cadence sweeping those away.

[4-3 cadences supplanting Lydian cadences is likely to do with tuning systems improving the 3rds.]

Lydian mode -- Lydian cadence -- 4-3 suspensions at cadences-- C 6/4

In the Baroque the 6/4 develops as the powerful overforegrounding phenomenon that grabs us by the lapels and keeps us seated even long enough to sit through a cadenza. The fugue in BWV 998 is a double fugue and the 2nd subject is the sighing motive with the sighs running a gamut and a guantlet through increasingly memorable non-harmonic tones 9-8;4-3, and later minor 9ths appear as the 3 is below the 4-3 -- [Eb, G, F, Ab]. As poignant as that is, it's over-foregrounded by the 6/4 at the end in celebratory block chords --

I6 - IV - I - 6/4 --- V7 ___ I !!

Lydian mode -- Lydian cadence -- 4-3 suspensions at cadences-- C 6/4 -- #9 moves

Mozart comes up with an over-forgrounding move that vies with the cadential 6/4. It is as strong or stronger than the pre-tonal Lydian cadence. He pioneers the #9 move.

Here it's a #9 in a Sor study. A leading tone to a major third and a leading tone to a 6th is some kind of inversional relationship and one is in proximity to a cadence on I, the next in proximity to a cadence on V. The cosmic order of Bach.

A most crazy example of this is Bach cello suite V, BWV 1011, which is found in Bach's hand only in his lute version, BWV 995. Opening the A section of the Saraband is a minor triad with major 7th--very twisted, very Baroque. In the Gavotte that harmony appears mid-phrase, in the cracks, in bar 2. It recedes from a prominent positon into the guts of a phrase (from whence it came).

bar 1 of Sarabande* bar 2 of Gavotte

and end of B section of Gigue

*Guitarists are more familiar with the transposition up a step to A minor.

At the end of the B section of the Gigue you get the inversion of the minor major 7th chord -- the aumented major 7. Just today I consider that in the movements preceding the Sarabande, the elements are all there in a more inchoate form -- commonplaces of counterpoint in the harmonic minor. The process we see is deliberate scrutiny of widespread practice. Placing the inversion at the end of the B section puts the elements into the micro/macrocosmic order.

Between #9 moves and the Symboliste Eros & Thanatos chords I might add Beethoven's sfortzando dim7 and +6 chords.

Beethoven -- explosions, bombs bursting, but with varying power -- simple dissonances, dissonances with chromatic inflections, secodary domainants or dim7 chords, augmented 6 chords. Those might be called his style or his tendancies. And yet the +6 chords anticipate jazz/Amram/Ponce tritonality.

With that crazy Diabelli variation in which each chord in the succession is a mind-f---, for lack of a better word -- that is something that no one has done better. I don't have my head around it, but it is not Bourgeois. It's a bit antisocial, in the most admirable way.

Brahms, certainly had the greatest respect and a deep feel for everything Beethoven did, and yet it was his nature to pull back into the bürgerlich. Op. 15 is tritonal on the grandest scale, and with all things related properly & comfortably to sonata form.

A Bb/D tune/harmony returns up a tritone, but with the same D bass pedal, expressing E/D a monumental II 6/5.

Lydian mode -- Lydian cadence -- 4-3 suspensions at cadences-- C 6/4 -- #9 moves -- half dim7 and V7 (inversions of one another and becoming Symboliste Eros & Thanatos)

Chopin's B minor Scherzo opens--

ii minor7 flat 5 in the high register
V7 in the low register

Putting them in contrasting registers emblematizes them.

That might be the first naked expression of half diminished as Eros and dominant 7 as thanatos, the coup de grace.

Wagner Tristan Prelude -- the fully diminished 7 is dodged by 1/2 dim7s and dominant 7s.

Lydian mode -- Lydian cadence -- 4-3 suspensions at cadences-- C 6/4 -- #9 moves -- half dim7 and V7 (inversions of one another and becoming Symboliste Eros & Thanatos)--Dominant 9 chord

Dominanat 7 is the coup de grace, as it still is in Beatles "Julia" and crazily in "Mother Nature's Son". When the low E appears it turns on a dime from half diminished to the symmetrical dominant 9.

Ponce Sonata for Guitar and Harpsichord
E dominant 9 chord is a glorious moment.

Dominant 9s are all over Ravel & Debussy. Slide teh dominant 9 around by whole steps and you prolong the sound a bit -- the tag in Pavan for a Dead Pricess.

From here we're too close to see very clearly. I will cotinues with my personal reactions.

I've learned that we can engage in social construction, but I prefer not to get into fights over trivial matters that arise within a trivial time scale. I love Sibelius, I love Schoenberg.

and from here it's too current and therefore too messy and unsettled -- 0167 is all over Schoenberg -- 0145 is in Britten & Henze and so much else -- All Trichord Hexachord is Carter's strange attractor -- (in progress)

My initial impulse here was to celebrate the common practice era as a moment when a clear sense of direction was achieved. We've moved away from that, but that only lasted about 250 or 300 years, with very fuzzy boundaries.

Perotin to Bach was about 500 years, and in that period of time, my subjective sense is that the Lydian cadence was a powerful overforegrounding device that dissapeared about 200 years before Bach nailed down forward and backwards in a way that persisted.

And that kind of overforegrounding (Lydian cadence) is still seen in music since 1918. It's a broadly Hindemithian concept. Overforgrounding is something that happens in time. It needs a setup with some simple foregrounding.

Finally, time -- forward and backward -- is being achieved post-1918 by processes of adding and subracting pitches. Setting, adding, dropping is a process that happens in time. For an example, Scroll down to "Adding and Subtracting Pitches" here --

More coming, perhaps. If something seems wrong or incoherent, please do let me know. I have to do these in a sprint, and I expect to make mistakes and to cause misunderstandings.


notes toward furthering this:

After listing over-foregrouinding things, the next list is accumulation. List elements that provide a sense of accumulation.

These lists all revolve around a sense of beginning and end, which implies a middle.

Perotin & Steve Reich -- they never start with Lydian. So there is even then a telos. Listening to Perotin & Reich with the benefit of Bach we are tempted to think of the movement into Lydian as the big moment that later becomes the modulation to V.

The Spanish Villancicos of Siglo XV -- there is movement to and from the tonic chord, and these not yet formalized in the manner of JS Bach. Ficta is left to the players; in many instances, Bach's choice of ficta might make a form with his sense of direction.

And yet, the large scale is undeveloped in one sense, and very developed in another--

sequences of phrases ending with a 4-3 move or other lovely dissonances all those felicities topped -- over-foregrounded -- by the Lydian cadence. Doesn't this achievement beg the question, "how to unaccumulate?" Do not end with a Lydian cadence? I see this in Oya tu Merced y Creo. The B section ends on a Lydian Cadence on I (it's usually called a half cadence, on V)--the da capo ends on lovely cadence with no thirds and no Lydian.

Hierarchies of non-harmonic tones in Telemann and Bach and Mozart (#9 moves) Beethoven -- these color the Bach ABA O/I order, which becomes so deeply ingrained that we barely think of it again until 1918.

Schoenberg's magic square definitely suggests a preservation of forward (A section) & backward (B section). That way of taking the idea is classical and rarely seen. By analogy with JS Bach, 0 is forward; I is backward.

Yet when he was writing, he could not turn on a dime and shake the late Romantic Schoenberg, and so his use of rows is often a luxurious basking in Tristan-like, Symboliste, timeless dreamscape. The E hexachord and his treatment of it is directed (in 4tet IV--see Babbitt essay) toward simple modulation up a 5th. But his surface so always over-foregrounded and so it's not foregrounded at all. What's there is still a wonderful new sense of motion. Boulez points out that he has to hammer on things to make the formal sections clear -- if his surface could give us a harmonic sign, something as clear as a Lydian Cadence, he would not have to hammer at his arrivals. He does do this -- op. 27#4 is floating Symboliste Chinese poetry until the end when he lands on analogous ordinal places in his four pentatonic tunes and gets a Dominant 9 chord. It feels like the mixolydian move at the end of a B section. Since his does it there, no doubt other examples can be found.

This dominant 9 chords, if you have a wild imagination, makes Schoenberg a brother of Ravel & Debussy. This had to have occurred to him, as dominant 9th is the hermaphrodite of choice with those two.

For the judgmental composers, those who do not want to see composers getting the edifice off of their backs -- some sense of accumulation is a gold standard.

You must get the edifice off of your back to free yourself to write the first phrase, but where you take that -- will there be a sense of accumulation?

adding timelines:


-- add register
look at interval between bass & treble narrowest to largest

-- add volume to the list

-- add orchestration -- (wow! a thundersheet! Wow, that gong!)

These are icing on the cake and so often there is no cake.

An empty gesture is these, with nothing else -- underdetermination.

To make a timeline of empty gestures, one would have to look at very recent music because the empty gestures do not survive.


History is subjective, and too few are subjecting themselves to it.

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