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Tonality and Transformation

Tonality and Transformation Symmetry plays a central, if not always explicit, role in transformational music theories. Moreover, symmetry often shapes the choices of repertoire to which transformational theories have been applied. That the music of Schoenberg, Webern, and others features prominently in David Lewin's earliest transformational writings is hardly surprising, given that the symmetries underlying the atonal repertoire's contextual treatment of the aggregate and its subsets are reflected in the mathematical group symmetries of the mod 12 pitch-class intervals, the group of twelve transpositions and inversions, or the classical twelve-tone operations. The symmetries inherent in the tonal system-- the mirror reflections of major/minor and dominant/subdominant appearing most prominently in nineteenth-century dualist harmonic accounts-- likewise became the inspiration for more recent transformational approaches under the rubric of neo-Riemannian theory. Neo-Riemannian approaches have found fertile ground in late nineteenth-century passages that feature cyclic triadic progressions with parsimonious voice leading; the group of contextual triadic transformations used to model such passages, again, reflects the symmetries of those progressions. Yet many important aspects of tonal experience are fundamentally asymmetric; the asymmetry of the diatonic collection, for instance, enables position finding that underlies scale-degree perception in a given key; the very notion of the tonic itself, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Music Theory Duke University Press

Tonality and Transformation

Journal of Music Theory , Volume 58 (2) – Sep 21, 2014

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Duke Univ Press
ISSN
0022-2909
eISSN
1941-7497
DOI
10.1215/00222909-2781789
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Symmetry plays a central, if not always explicit, role in transformational music theories. Moreover, symmetry often shapes the choices of repertoire to which transformational theories have been applied. That the music of Schoenberg, Webern, and others features prominently in David Lewin's earliest transformational writings is hardly surprising, given that the symmetries underlying the atonal repertoire's contextual treatment of the aggregate and its subsets are reflected in the mathematical group symmetries of the mod 12 pitch-class intervals, the group of twelve transpositions and inversions, or the classical twelve-tone operations. The symmetries inherent in the tonal system-- the mirror reflections of major/minor and dominant/subdominant appearing most prominently in nineteenth-century dualist harmonic accounts-- likewise became the inspiration for more recent transformational approaches under the rubric of neo-Riemannian theory. Neo-Riemannian approaches have found fertile ground in late nineteenth-century passages that feature cyclic triadic progressions with parsimonious voice leading; the group of contextual triadic transformations used to model such passages, again, reflects the symmetries of those progressions. Yet many important aspects of tonal experience are fundamentally asymmetric; the asymmetry of the diatonic collection, for instance, enables position finding that underlies scale-degree perception in a given key; the very notion of the tonic itself,

Journal

Journal of Music TheoryDuke University Press

Published: Sep 21, 2014

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