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Topic: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

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  1. #41
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce A. Richardson
    Hey, guys,

    I have enjoyed checking out what has been done in this section. It's nice to see how the text which once tortured my poor young soul has been expanded and illustrated by so many examples and annotations.

    I notice you're talking about voice leading, and we have had numerous discussions about it here over the years. It is sometimes hard for people to grasp why these arbitrary "rules" have any meaning, and the explanations that Jonny and Alan have provided are very good.

    I have a more general explanation that may also be helpful.

    When you read any of the "rules" of voice leading, they can seem out of touch with what you have heard in film scores or some of the other musical applications we are exposed to on a daily basis.

    That's because their basis is drawn from the evolution of diatonic music...that which is designed around the gravitational force of the traditional western scales and modes. There is no doubt that all of the common voice leading and doubling rules are valid. They come from years of highest and best practice, and were formed as a result of what "worked," rather than being arbitrarily applied.

    HOWEVER...

    It's important to note that even very "tonal sounding" music may not be Diatonic in nature. And that, I think, is where the disconnect occurs...when we hear things that sound "tonal," but they are not following the traditional ruleset.

    Here is how I typically explain the way to approach voice-leading rules:

    Say your wife walks into the room wearing a new outfit. She asks you, "Does this look good on me?"

    What is the right answer?

    YES, of course. This is the highest and best answer. It is the answer that men have relied upon since the dawn of civilization, in order to keep the love flowing.

    So, can you break that rule?

    Of course, but only if you have an overwhelmingly better experimental choice:

    "Baby, I don't think that outfit looks good on you..."

    "WHAT?" (tears forming in corners of eyes)

    "No, that outfit looks AMAZING on you!!!"

    See, you have broken the rule, but you have managed through your artistic cunning to increase the level of tension, then resolve it to even greater success by taking a calculated risk.

    This is how voice leading rules work, especially in modern music. By ignoring highest and best practices derived from the history of western music, you take a gamble on destabilizing the gravitational flow...therefore engaging risk...in order to utilize the resulting instability to even greater effect.

    The simple rule, then, is that the traditional voice leading rules will keep you safe, and keep your musical thoughts flowing. Break them only with extreme intention, and no one will ever have a negative thing to say about the results. But if you DON'T break them with boldness of intention, and the results are merely a destabilized line with no saving virtue, then people will merely say, "That's poor voice leading."
    Best explination I've ever heard involving any aspect of theory!

    Thanks,

  2. #42

    Voice-Leading

    Some fundamentals:

    - the phrase "voice-leading" has the word VOICE in it. The basic principles of voice leading come, originally, from what is easy to SING. That means conjunct motion as a norm. The fact that instruments can easily play all kinds of things which voices cannot sing, leads to many interesting developments, but they are ADDITIONS to, and not REPLACEMENTS for the principles of voice leading.

    - there is evidence that people tend to sort auditory experience, at least in part, by register. In other words, perceiving a line with very wide leaps as a unified whole is more demanding than a conjunct line. (I didn't say BAD, I just said more demanding.)

    - apart from the principle of conjunct motion, the other basic aspect of voice leading is the idea that some notes are more equal than others. While much has been said about the equality of all 12 notes (or however many notes you want in your scale), suffice it to say that, for notes, democracy is NOT a virtue. In fact it is a very quick route to boredom. In any scale including unequal intervals, the notes enclosing the closer intervals will display a certain "attraction" for each other. Whether one wants to carry this all the way into a tonal system is debatable, but aiming for no attractions at all is, again, a fast way to make very boring music.
    Alan Belkin, composer
    Professor of Composition
    University of Montreal

    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers...n/e.index.html (links to examples of my music, as well as my online textbooks)

  3. #43
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Great explanation Alan.
    With every post like this my intellectual understanding grows.
    I'm really just beginning to really grasp these things in mind and I appreciate your time and expertise.
    Anything that comes to mind that you feel might be usefull, in the way of helping with foundational understanding will definately be read and appreciated by me!



    Thank you.

  4. #44

    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Glad to help. Most things in music can either be explained in terms of basic principles like this, or else they usually aren't worth knowing!

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve_Karl
    Great explanation Alan.
    With every post like this my intellectual understanding grows.
    I'm really just beginning to really grasp these things in mind and I appreciate your time and expertise.
    Anything that comes to mind that you feel might be usefull, in the way of helping with foundational understanding will definately be read and appreciated by me!



    Thank you.
    Alan Belkin, composer
    Professor of Composition
    University of Montreal

    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers...n/e.index.html (links to examples of my music, as well as my online textbooks)

  5. #45
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    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by dpc
    It's true that chords containing the 9th or 11th degree etc., began being labeled as such in the era's mentioned but it really is an issue of semantics or style. Prior to the modern era these tones were simply thought of as non chord tones in relation to the basic triad. Therefore they were treated as such and would be resolved accordingly (the ninth can move in either direction the 11th must always move to the third and so on.) The modern era cast off this restraint harmonically and considered these tones as belonging to the static triad without the need for resolution. Melodically however you will find that modern composers still hewed very closely to the well established treatment to avoid weakness in the music. For example, a melodic line that doesn't move against the chord properly as in a descending line that hits the 4th (11th) degree and turns back upward. Or leaps of a fourth that are not within the chord which suggest a modulation or cadence in another key to the listener (even to the relative minor.) Composers simply wouldn't do these things because they sounded so poorly.

    Getting back to the main point, 9th, 11th and 13th chords can be found in Palestrina and much earlier. The approach to and style of modern music simply labeled them differently.
    I've been doing some studying in the Gary White book, and he did some chordal analysis of some various works, including parts of The Nutcracker.
    In measures 1-49 of Valse des Fleurs, here's what Tchaikovsy did:
    (D Major) V #viDIM7 V #viDIM7 V7 V... V7/V V9/V V7 V7 V9 V7 V7 V7
    viiDIM7/V V7 I etc. Point being here is that these are beyond basic triads (at least in the harmonies.) So the introduction to "Waltz of the Flowers" is built entirely on dominant (V) harmony. There are virtually no tonic chords at all. So I guess we keep the melodies very simple (octaves, thirds, sixths,) and then we can make the harmonies more complex.

    Keith Walls

  6. #46

    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Simply, an amazing topic.

    Rules are meant to be broken and that is everything that is there to be said.

    I think we got the most of this mystery solved, didnt we?

  7. #47
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    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Beethoven is the master (of many many things musically of course) of appearinging to break rules but almost always showing that he didn't ultimately. It was a game he played that with only very careful analysis is revealed to the student.
    Dave Connor www.daveconnor.net

  8. #48

    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Actually the reason for all those dominant chords is because this is an INTRODUCTION. THe idea is to create expectations.

    Quote Originally Posted by KeithW
    So the introduction to "Waltz of the Flowers" is built entirely on dominant (V) harmony. There are virtually no tonic chords at all. So I guess we keep the melodies very simple (octaves, thirds, sixths,) and then we can make the harmonies more complex.

    Keith Walls
    Alan Belkin, composer
    Professor of Composition
    University of Montreal

    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers...n/e.index.html (links to examples of my music, as well as my online textbooks)

  9. #49
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Wow fantastic thread, like Beverly... aha!!! I'll read it again tomorrow to strengthen retention. Thanks very much to Johnny Lost, Bruce, dalek, and Professor Belkin and others for these great posts.

    IMO, Rules are not restrictions, they are like a roadmap to find your way around this place, helps to keep you from getting lost. If you are lost you will probably sound very much like you are lost. You can get off the road if you want, do a little fourwheelin, throw up some dirt, but best to always know where the heck the roads are, because eventually you may want to get back on one.

  10. #50

    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron St. Germain
    I liked the way Beverly put it. I have also had the "A-ha" experience at this forum and when you're studying by yourself, they are few and far between. I would like to see more arranging books on arranging for singers. They too are few and far between.
    Hi, Ron!
    If you're in a pop music mode, I'd try to find a copy of VOICES by Anita Kerr, leader of the Anita Kerr Singers, and vocal arranger on 17 zillion sessions. It was published a while back, but I'd say the principles it outlines are not at all dated. It is primarily pop-oriented, but I'd say the principles are near-universal.
    If you can find a used copy, it comes with a 10" vinyl LP with the examples on it.

    Let's just say this: I used it to write a few vocal charts & nobody barfed.

    Jim
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

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