What is tonality

The epitome of melodic and harmonic tone relationships in a tone system, represented as tone relationships within scales or other forms of elementary material disposition. Sometimes the existence of a central tone or sound is seen as an essential characteristic of T. called. In contrast, some Austrian authors of the early 20th century (G. Adler, A. Schönberg) specifically refer to it T. the relationship between tones in general. Schoenberg mentions the lack of a harmonious center "Canceled T." and means a form of T., not atonality as you, as he thinks: fictional counterpart (31922, 460 and 487f, footnote). Specifically, it refers to parts in A. Bruckner or H. Wolf, for example, where the connection to a key is not recognizable due to vague chords and each major and minor triad can temporarily be understood as a key.

In the narrower sense, as harmonious T. or major-minorT., the term describes the tone system on which music is based, for example, from Jean-Baptiste Lully and Arcangelo Corelli to G. Mahler and R. Strauss. The adjective tonal (as opposed to modal or atonal) refers to it. Tonal music is characterized by a number of characteristics that, of different ages, gradually came together to form a complex of characteristics and were expressed at different levels of stylistic development with different emphasis: (1) The sound stock includes triads, seventh chords and variants of the dominant seventh chord with a raised one Tension. The chords can be reversed; In addition to the root note, there can be a third, fifth or seventh chord in the bass. (2) In the case of sound sequences, the distance between the fifths of the fundamental tones predominates over the third or second. (3) Chord dissonances and non-chord dissonances are treated differently. (4) One chord in each case functions as the tonal center, in which all others are related to it. (5) The sounds of a key characterize different states of tension, quiet sounds (tonic) and sounds of medium (subdominant) or high tension with the tendency to return to the tonic (dominant). The alternation of tension, the alternation of tension and solution, is what defines tonal music. (6) Vertical and horizontal are closely interrelated: Melodies have harmonic implications, they are to be understood as the development of sounds. (7) The relationship between tonic and dominant forms the basis of the harmony process and thus also of the form; I – V: ||: V – I is the most important and most common form scheme. (8) Certain harmonic or linear sound sequences (such as I – II – V – I or a sequence of sixth chords) are used stereotypically.

The term T. has served since its introduction by Alexandre-Étienne Choron and François-Joseph Fétis in the early 19th century to delimit various musical idioms. Choron made a distinction between tonality antique and tonalité modern. This corresponds to the distinction between modal and harmonic T. or between modality and T. (in the narrow sense). Outward characteristic of the transition from modality to T. is the replacement of the eight or twelve modes by the major and minor scales. The sound system is switched from a melodic to a harmonic basis. From now on, a key is no longer primarily melodically determined by the position of the semitone steps in the scale, but rather harmoniously by the size of the third in the tonic triad. The reduction process from eight or twelve to just two scales appears to have largely been completed by the end of the 17th century. In the Gradus ad Parnassum (1725) by J. J. Fux, the recourse to Modi and adherence to the principle of interval progression results from the nature of the object, the old style, and the example of vocal music of the 16th century. Adapting the cantus firmi in major and minor as well as the avoidance of typical modal sound sequences in three- and four-part movements, however, show that Fux is alsoT. thought where he apparently used modal techniques.

In the field of music theory there are aspects of T. in basso continuo theory, counterpoint theory, form theory, v. a. but in the theory of harmony on language. As a specific feature of the Viennese music theory tradition, the emphasis on the linear and dynamic aspects of T. on. The tonic is presented as the center of gravity. S. Sechter presented the chord progression V7–I as a model for many others and named her after Jean-Philippe Rameaus cadence "final fall". H. Schenker (1906, 44–54) introduced his own terms for movement in the circle of fifths, around the two directions of distance from the keynote ("Development") and the need to return there ("Inversion") to be marked. Also in the picture of the falling "Primordial line" (Schenker 1935) expresses the attraction of the tonic. A. Schönberg's metaphor of the appears even more dynamic T. as a battleground for competing centers (1911, 169–172). Schönberg used the expression for the undecided fluctuation of a composition between two keys "Floating T." Following on from A. Schopenhauer's philosophy of will, there is the idea that the dynamics of the tonal composition arise from the tones and sounds themselves. Schönberg writes of "Needs" and "Longings" of tones and of "Instinctual life of harmonies" (1911, 55 and 95). Schenker named his magazine, which appeared in 1921-25 The will to tone. And E. Kurth found in the "Lead tone energy" the root of tonal tension - here too, as in Schenkers "Urlinie", the linear and the dynamic moment of T.

Kurth and Schenker understood the path to atonality as a crisis or a phenomenon of decay, Schoenberg and his school (Vienna School) as a suspension and redefinition of T. Both perspectives are based on the idea of ​​a goal-oriented, irreversible development in which T. has been replaced by atonality. Such organic or teleological concepts of history hide the harmonic ones T. also played and continues to play a central role in the 20th and 21st centuries. Apart from the fact that individual features of tonal music continue to have an effect in atonal music, is T. the basis for pop music, jazz and many other forms of popular music as well as for minimal music and for conservative segments of so-called contemporary music. And tonal music continues to dominate a broad repertoire of the current concert and opera business and the recording industry.

NGroveD 25 (2001); HmT 1992; M. Eybl in A. Jeßulat et al. (Ed.), [Fs.] H. Fladt 2005; MGÖ 3 (1995); S. Sixth, The principles of musical composition 1853/54; H. Schenker, Harmony 1906; A. Schönberg, Harmony 1911, 31922; E. Kurth, Romantic harmony and its crisis in Wagner's "Tristan" 1920; H. Schenker, The free sentence 1935; C. Dahlhaus, Investigations into the origin of the harmonic T. 1967, 21988; C. Dahlhaus et al. (Ed.), [Kgr.-Ber.] International musicological congress. Leipzig 1966, 1970, 63-100; F. Neumann in Mf 26 (1973); G. Pearl, Twelve-tone tonality 1978, 21996; F. Lerdahl / R. Jackendoff, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music 1983; C. Deliège, Les fondements de la musique tonale: une perspective analytique post-schenkerienne 1984; R. Norton, Tonality in Western Culture. A Critical and Historical Perspective 1984; C. Dahlhaus in NZfM 49/7–8 (1988); MGG 9 (1998); W. Thomson, Tonality in music: a general theory 1999.

Martin Eybl, Art. “Tonality”, in: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon online, access: ().

[Last content change: 06/05/2001]