Excited to present a paper this weekend in the annual meeting of Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, which was supposed to be held at Hochschule für Musik Detmold but was moved online due to the ongoing pandemic situation. In fact, out of four conferences I was going to attend this fall, the GMTH event is the only one that has not been postponed. I will talk about the adoption of Western concepts of musical form in Russia, in particular Sergei Taneyev‘s sonata theory (which was primarily taught according to Beethoven’s model) and its influence on his student Nikolai Medtner. Moreover, I will chair a session on digital music theory pedagogy and music recognition, which I am looking forward to.
Recently I’ve been fooling around with different figures to display chord relations, to some extent inspired by Euler’s and Riemann’s Tonnetz. I now came up with a 5×5 grid containing all 24 major and minor triads (with the middle position left blank) and tried to find a meaningful layout for such a triad square. There seems to be no entirely consistent way of arranging the chords so as to adhere to one single rule for the derivation of adjacent fields. Yet I found two interesting layouts, one of which tends to emphasise third relations, while the other prefers hexatonic poles. I’m curious what you think of these figures, and if they might be of any use in a transformational harmonic theory, apart from illustrating cycles of minor thirds and octatonic regions in symmetrical patterns.
To be sure, this is just thought-in-progress and by no means a fully developed approach, so I’ll be glad to hear your opinions and suggestions. In case I might have unconsciously reproduced some recent findings from Neo-Riemannian Theory which I was unaware of, I’d appreciate if somebody pointed out a source to me. Also, if you can think of another more convincing 5×5 layout, please let me know.
The hexatonic or whole-tone scale (Messiaen’s mode 1) is not actually diatonic but a symmetrical scale, constructed from an equidistant division of the octave in six portions, which results in scale degrees separated by two half-tone steps from one another. This contradicts the common definition of diatonicism as a sub-category of heptatonicism, requiring seven discrete scale degrees in unambiguous alteration. However, it is possible to derive a whole-tone scale from diatonic material, which I am going to show here.
To this end I will make use of tetrachordal theory. A tetrachord consists of four adjacent diatonic pitches in the range of a perfect or augmented fourth, coming in four possible variants which differ by the existence and position of half-tone steps: Ionian (2 2 1), Dorian (2 1 2), Phrygian (1 2 2), and Lydian (2 2 2: no half-tone step). If we conceive every diatonic mode as a combination of two disjunct tetrachords transposed by a perfect fifth, there are seven combinations making up the seven diatonic modes—for instance, the Aeolian mode consists of a lower Dorian and an upper Phrygian tetrachord, while the Mixolydian mode consists of a lower Ionian and an upper Dorian tetrachord. The eighth combination, though, joins two Lydian tetrachords to a non-diatonic whole-tone scale, provided we allow the upper tetrachord to transpose by a diminished (instead of a perfect) fifth. The resulting scale (2 2 2 0 2 2 2) has six pitches, but makes use of all seven scale degrees, with a diminished second F-sharp / G-flat at the center. In the plagal variant, the scale covers the range of an augmented seventh G-flat / F-sharp.
Glad to announce that I will be supervising a new edition of Mily Balakirev‘s piano transcription of Mikhail Glinka‘s song Zhavoronok (The Skylark), to be published with G. Henle Verlag. The autograph and first edition, issued in Saint Petersburg in 1864, are considered lost, which means that I will have to rely on other prints from the late nineteenth century—such as a Gutheil edition with this beautiful art nouveau title page. Looking forward to working on this project!
I tried to make productive use of the past days of pandemic lockdown to complete my lengthy study of Nikolai Medtner‘s Berlin period, 1921–24. This fascinating endeavour determined me to delve into a not-so-well-known section of the composer’s biography, and to elaborate on certain facts and details hidden in his correspondence and commemorative literature. For those of you who might be interested, a preprint of the article is available for reading and commenting on the platform academia.edu. Looking forward to your suggestions!