Hearing simultaneities

January 17, 2010

This quarter, in our Music History, Culture and Creativity class, one of our themes is the notion of aural simultaneities. We chose this word as a substitute for the more traditional appellation, “harmony.” The term “harmony” tends to call up the Western notion of functional tonality, where every (or most) chord has a function. The most important function is for the dominant (V) to resolve to the tonic (I), The harmonic and melodic drama occur on the way TO the dominant from the tonic, and once there, the celebration of the resolution of the dominant to the tonic fill millions of square miles in the annals of music repertoire.

Not all the world’s music fits into such expectations. For instance, here’s a montage video over a performance by the Bulgarian Women’s Chorus. You’ll LOTS of 2nds, 4ths and 7ths — intervals treated as dissonances in the
West — in this largely 2-part song.

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And my new favorite music comes from Sardinia. Susan McClary played some in class on Thursday and it blew my mind. Her point in this part of her talk was showing the evolution of melodies being shadowed a 5th above or a 4th below, and in the case of some Sardinian music, in parallel triads — a kind of Balkan Crosby, Stills and Nash! Here is a little documentary about Sardinian music that gives a nice overview.

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How about some Sardinian sacred music?
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Now where exactly does THIS one fit in? Caribbean throat singing Gospel?
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And here’s one that shows how Sardinian music refuses to be functionally tonal. And was that Petruchka I heard flit by??

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And one to blow your mind — the Tenores di Bitti sing “Mialinu Pira.”

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