Tonality is a musical system that arranges pitches or chords to induce a hierarchy of perceived relations, stabilities, and attractions. The pitch or triadic chord with the greatest stability is called the tonic. The most common use of the term ..."is to designate the arrangement of musical phenomena around a referential tonic in European music from about 1600 to about 1910" . Modern classical (academical) music may practice or avoid any sort of tonality—but harmony in popular music remains tonal in some sense, and harmony in jazz music includes many, if not all, tonal characteristics, while having different properties from common-practice classical music.
"All harmonic idioms in popular music are tonal, and none is without function" .
Tonality is an organized system of tones (e.g., the tones of a major or minor scale) in which one tone (the tonic) becomes the central point for the remaining tones. In tonality, the tonic (tonal center) is the tone of complete relaxation, the target toward which other tones lead .
"Tonal music is music that is ''unified'' and ''dimensional''. Music is unified if it is exhaustively referable to a precompositional system generated by a single constructive principle derived from a basic scale-type; it is dimensional if it can nonetheless be distinguished from that precompositional ordering" .
The term ''tonalité'' originated with Alexandre-Étienne and was borrowed by François-Joseph Fétis in 1840 (,; ; ; ; ). According to Carl Dahlhaus, however, the term ''tonalité'' was only coined by Castil-Blaze in 1821 (; ).
Although Fétis used it as a general term for a system of musical organization and spoke of ''types de tonalités'' rather than a single system, today the term is most often used to refer to major–minor tonality, the system of musical organization of the common practice period. Major-minor tonality is also called ''harmonic tonality'' (translation from Dahlhaus' ''harmonische Tonalität''), ''diatonic tonality'', ''common practice tonality'', ''functional tonality'', or just ''tonality''.
==Characteristics and features==
At least eight distinct senses of the word "tonality" (and corresponding adjective, "tonal"), some mutually exclusive, have been identified :
# The systematic organization of pitch phenomena in any music at all, including pre-17th century western music as well as much non-western music, such as music based on the slendro and pelog pitch collections of Indonesian gamelan, or employing the modal nuclei of the Arabic maqam or the Indian raga system. This sense also applies to the tonic/dominant/subdominant harmonic harmonic constellations in the theories of Jean-Philippe Rameau as well as the 144 basic transformations of twelve-tone technique. By the middle of the 20th century, it had become "evident that triadic structure does not necessarily generate a tone center, that non-triadic harmonic formations may be made to function as referential elements, and that the assumption of a twelve-tone complex does not preclude the existence of tone centers" . For the composer and theorist George Perle, tonality is not "a matter of 'tone-centeredness', whether based on a 'natural' hierarchy of pitches derived from the overtone series or an 'artificial' pre compositional ordering of the pitch material; nor is it essentially connected to the kinds of pitch structures one finds in traditional diatonic music" . This sense (like some of the others) is susceptible to ideological employment, as Schoenberg, did by relying on the idea of a progressive development in musical resources "to compress divergent ''fin-de-siècle'' compositional practices into a single historical lineage in which his own music brings one historical era to a close and begins the next." From this point of view, twelve-tone music could be regarded "either as the natural and inevitable culmination of an organic motivic process (Webern) or as a historical ''Aufhebung'' (Adorno), the dialectical synthesis of late Romantic motivic practice on the one hand with a musical sublimation of tonality as pure system on the other" .
# Any rational and self-contained theoretical arrangement of musical pitches, existing prior to any concrete embodiment in music. For example, "Sainsbury, who had Choron translated into English in 1825, rendered the first occurrence of tonalité as a ‘system of modes’ before matching it with the neologism ‘tonality’. While tonality qua system constitutes a theoretical (and thus imaginative) abstraction from actual music, it is often hypostatized in musicological discourse, converted from a theoretical structure into a musical reality. In this sense, it is understood as a Platonic form or prediscursive musical essence that suffuses music with intelligible sense, which exists before its concrete embodiment in music, and can thus be theorized and discussed apart from actual musical contexts" .
# As a term to contrast with "modal" and "atonal", implying that tonal music is discontinuous as a form of cultural expression from modal music (before 1600) on the one hand and atonal music (after 1910) on the other
# A generic term applied to pre-modern music, referring to the eight modes of the Western church, implying that important historical continuities underlie music before and after the emergence of musical modernism around 1600, with the difference between ''tonalité ancienne'' (before 1600) and ''tonalité moderne'' (after 1600) being one of emphasis rather than of kind
# Musical phenomena (harmonies, cadential formulae, harmonic progressions, melodic gestures, formal categories) arranged or understood in relation to a referential tonic
# Musical phenomena perceived or preinterpreted in terms of the categories of tonal theories. This is a psychophysical sense, where for example "listeners tend to hear a given pitch as, for instance, an A above middle C, an augmented 4th above E, the minor 3rd in an F minor triad, a dominant in relation to D, or (where the caret designates a scale degree) in G major rather than a mere acoustical frequency, in this case 440 Hz" .
# Trivially, as a synonym for "key"—in this sense meaning "keyness"
# The most common usage, referring to the arrangement of musical phenomena around a referential tonic, as found in European music from about 1600 to about 1910, using two modal genera, major and minor
"Tonal harmonies must always include the third of the chord" . To function as a tonic, a chord must be either a major or a minor triad. Dominant function requires a major-quality triad with a root a perfect fifth above the affiliated tonic and containing the leading tone of the key. This dominant triad must be preceded by a chord progression that establishes the dominant as the penultimate goal of a motion that is completed by moving on to the tonic. In this final dominant-to-tonic progression, the leading tone normally ascends by semitone motion to the tonic scale degree (; ; ; ). A dominant seventh chord always consist of a major triad with an added minor seventh above the root. To achieve this in minor keys, the seventh scale degree must be raised to create a major triad on the dominant (; ).
David considers key, consonance and dissonance (relaxation and tension, respectively), and hierarchical relationships the three most basic concepts in tonality.
Carl Dahlhaus lists the characteristic schemata of tonal harmony, "typified in the compositional formulas of the 16th and early 17th centuries," as the "complete cadence" I–ii–V–I, I–IV–V–I, I–IV–I–V–I; the circle of fifths progression I–IV–vii°–iii–vi–ii–V–I; and the major–minor parallelism: minor v–i–VII–III equals major iii–vi–V–I; or minor III–VII–i–v equals major I–V–vi–iii. The last of these progressions is characterized by "retrograde" harmonic motion.
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