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This article explores the advent of two foundational characteristics of the modern concept of harmony inaugurated by Rameau's Traité de l'harmonie (1722): first, that its principal objects are sonorities of three or more distinct pitch classes, that is, consonant and dissonant chords; and second, that these chords “move” from one to the next in ways determined by certain inherent relations among them, in a process in which dissonances, as well as consonances, play a significant if not crucial role. This article shows that the ancestors of these two fundamental properties of harmony, newly understood as a specifically polyphonic phenomenon, first emerged into theoretical discourse in polemical writings of the Northern Italian theorists Nicolò Burzio (1487), Giovanni Spataro (1491), and Franchino Gaffurio (1496, 1518), sparked by the inflammatory views of Bartolomeo Ramos de Pareia (1482). Moreover, while these ideas about harmony come to cohabit in Gioseffo Zarlino's Istitutioni harmoniche (1558), they were initially proposed not as complementary but as explicitly competing new conceptions of the nature of harmony, advanced to support their authors' polemical positions and attacks on each other.
Journal of Music Theory – Duke University Press
Published: Apr 1, 2022
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