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Jose Ramirez
Jose Ramirez

Tonality: Music Theory REPACK

Basic principles of the theory of harmony reflect physiological and anatomical properties of the auditory nervous system and related cognitive systems. This hypothesis is motivated by observations from several different disciplines, including ethnomusicology, developmental psychology, and animal behavior. Over the past several years, we and our colleagues have been investigating the vertical dimension of harmony from the perspective of neurobiology using physiological, psychoacoustic, and neurological methods. Properties of the auditory system that govern harmony perception include (1) the capacity of peripheral auditory neurons to encode temporal regularities in acoustic fine structure and (2) the differential tuning of many neurons throughout the auditory system to a narrow range of frequencies in the audible spectrum. Biologically determined limits on these properties constrain the range of notes used in music throughout the world and the way notes are combined to form intervals and chords in popular Western music. When a harmonic interval is played, neurons throughout the auditory system that are sensitive to one or more frequencies (partials) contained in the interval respond by firing action potentials. For consonant intervals, the fine timing of auditory nerve fiber responses contains strong representations of harmonically related pitches implied by the interval (e.g., Rameau's fundamental bass) in addition to the pitches of notes actually present in the interval. Moreover, all or most of the partials can be resolved by finely tuned neurons throughout the auditory system. By contrast, dissonant intervals evoke auditory nerve fiber activity that does not contain strong representations of constituent notes or related bass notes. Furthermore, many partials are too close together to be resolved. Consequently, they interfere with one another, cause coarse fluctuations in the firing of peripheral and central auditory neurons, and give rise to perception of roughness and dissonance. The effects of auditory cortex lesions on the perception of consonance, pitch, and roughness, combined with a critical reappraisal of published psychoacoustic data on the relationship between consonance and roughness, lead us to conclude that consonance is first and foremost a function of the pitch relationships among notes. Harmony in the vertical dimension is a positive phenomenon, not just a negative phenomenon that depends on the absence of roughness--a view currently held by many psychologists, musicologists, and physiologists.

Tonality: Music Theory


Karl Braunschweig specializes in the intersections between the practice of tonal music and the history of its theories, particularly in the ways that language concepts (such as grammar, rhetoric, and representation) and aesthetic categories have mediated our understandings of musical structure from the eighteenth century to the present. His publications have appeared in Music Theory Spectrum, the Journal of Music Theory, Music Theory and Analysis, Acta Musicologica, Theory and Practice, Intégral, and Gamut. He has also served the Society for Music Theory (SMT) and Music Theory Midwest (MTMW) in numerous capacities, and is an editorial board member for Intégral. Currently, he is working on a book project that envisions a new theoretical approach to melody and form based upon historical practices of signification and theories of language. He is also working on a smaller project documenting the history of dissonance in tonal theory and practice.

The purpose of this study was to provide evidence for the perceptual component of an analysis of pitch relationships in tonal music that includes consideration of both formal analytic systems and musical listeners' responses to tonal relationships in musical contexts. It was hypothesized (1) that perception of tonal centers in music develops from listeners' interpretations of time-dependent contextual (functional) relationships among pitches, rather than primarily through knowledge of psychoacoustical or structural characteristics of the pitch content of sets or scales and (2) that critical perceptual cues to functional relationships among pitches are provided by the manner in which particular intervallic relationships are expressed in musical time. Excerpts of tonal music were chosen to represent familiar harmonic relationships across a spectrum of tonal ambiguity/specificity. The pitch-class sets derived from these excerpts were ordered: (1) to evoke the same tonic response as the corresponding musical excerpt, 2) to evoke another tonal center, and (3) to be tonally ambiguous. The effect of the intervallic contents of musical excerpts and strings of pitches in determining listeners' choices of tonic and the effect of contextual manipulations of tones in the strings in directing subjects' responses were measured and compared. Results showed that the musically trained listeners in the study were very sensitive to tonal implications of temporal orderings of pitches in determining tonal centers. Temporal manipulations of intervallic relationships in stimuli had significant effects on concurrences of tonic responses and on tonal clarity ratings reported by listeners. The interval rarest in the diatonic set, the tritone, was the interval most effective in guiding tonal choices. These data indicate that perception of tonality is too complex a phenomenon to be explained in the time-independent terms of psychoacoustics or pitch- class collections, that perceived tonal relationships are too flexible to be forced into static structural representations, and that a functional interpretation of rare intervals in optimal temporal orderings in musical contexts is a critical feature of tonal listening strategy.

About: Richard Cohn received his PhD from the Eastman School of Music in 1987, with a dissertation on transpositional combination in atonal music, under the supervision of Robert D. Morris. Early articles focused on music of Bartók and Schenkerian theory. He taught in the Music Department at the University of Chicago from 1985, where he served as Department Chair from 1998 to 2001. In 2004, he founded Oxford Studies in Music Theory, which he edited for Oxford University Press for ten years. In 2005 he was appointed Battell Professor of the Theory of Music at Yale University. He is currently Executive Editor of the Journal of Music Theory.

The Master of Arts degree enables students to gain advanced knowledge and skills in music theory, as well as in closely related areas. Graduate courses and seminars provide extensive exposure to problems in analysis and the history of music theory.

The University of Oregon is one of only four universities on the West Coast that offers a doctoral program in music theory. The program is distinctive in the way it prepares students for careers both as practicing theorists and as teachers of music theory.

The placement record for graduates of the doctoral program in music theory during the last twenty years has been impressive. Doctoral students have become widely known across the United States for their excellent national and regional conference presentations.

The Ph.D. program emphasizes both intellectual and practical skills while enabling students to become as broadly knowledgeable in the field as possible. Included in the course of study are classes in advanced analysis (including Schenkerian, post-tonal and Neo-Riemannian analysis), form in tonal music, analysis of popular music, history of theory, world music, pedagogy, college music teaching, composition, and electronic/computer music, among other subjects.

The study offers a systematic exploration of situations in which dyads in common-practice tonal music change their meaning, when repeated or as pivots. The most common such situation is thirds that serve as either the upper or the lower pair of consonant triad members, most often with the tonic as one of the options. Sometimes, however, an implied harmony turns out to be dissonant. Occasionally, dyads other than thirds are also subject to reinterpretation. In exceptional circumstances, dyads do not imply complete harmonies.

As part of their study of music theory, students also cultivate aural skills, sight-singing skills, and musicianship techniques that help connect music theory to the world of sound through musicianship courses. Beyond the basic sequence of music theory and musicianship courses, we offer advanced courses in music theory that address the analysis of different traditions, types, and eras of music, including counterpoint, the analysis of 20th-century art music, the analysis of popular music, world music and jazz, and the study of form within Western Art Music.

Michael Jackson and the Beatles were famously ignorant of formal theory. They did all of their learning by ear, working from actual repertoire. They most certainly understood how music worked, but their knowledge was implicit, not explicit. They might not have been able to explain to you why a certain chord sounds better after another one, but the important thing is to know that it does, not why it does. It probably took them longer to solve musical problems by brute force trial and error than it takes me, but who cares? Their music is enormously, colossally better than mine, and that of any of the authors of any of my theory texts. You might argue that Michael Jackson and the Beatles did end up learning theory implicitly, but they certainly never did it in a way that would have earned them a music degree.

To see western music theory as meaningful, you need to understand what aesthetic problems it is trying to solve, and to see that these aesthetic problems are still present in contemporary music. Some of these aethetics are not very important to use today, and that theory and advice is irrelevant. But some concepts, like tension and resolution, are still very much part of the contemporary music vocabulary.

If you think the Blues has nothing to do with the Western theory, you should consider that the blues form itself is virtually a distillation is the most potent and common types of cadential movements in western harmony. The fact that we even describe the blues form in terms of I-IV-V, etc. shows that the basic concepts introduced by Western theory regarding chords and their relationships are coherent as a partial description of the harmonic materials are of blues. 041b061a72


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