Philip Tagg: Troubles With Tonal Terminology

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    TROUBLESwith

    TONALTERMINOLOGY

    Textoriginallysubmittedasacontributiontothe

    FestschriftforCORINAHARONINANDGRACIELAPARASKEVADIS,NovemberDecember2011,withslightchangesinApril2012andmoresubstantialrevisioninFebruary2013)

    PhilipTagg

    Preliminaries

    Formalconventions

    AllsourcereferencesarelistedinasingleReferencesappendix. Thefollowingtypefaceconventionsareused:

    [1]Courier Boldfornotenames,e.g.b, c, d;[2]Tahomaforchordnames,e.g.E7Am;

    [3]romannumeralsfornonkeyspecifictertialchordsbasedonequivalentscaledegreeinmonomodalheptatonicmusic,e.g.VIIIVI.

    [4]arabicnumeralsfornonkeyspecificscaledegrees,e.g.12345671(ascendingharmonicminorscale).

    Acknowledgements

    IwouldlikethankBobDavis(Huddersfield),DavidMcGuinness(Glasgow)andLuanaStan(Montral)forvaluableinputduringthewritingoftheoriginalversionofthistext.

    ,

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    2 Tagg:Troubles with tonal terminology (2011/2013)

    Background

    Iamverypleased tobepartof thisvolumededicated toCorin

    and Graciela because Corin was one of those whose ideasencouraged my efforts to reform and democratise the study ofmusic. I see this text as part of those efforts in that it addressesfundamentalproblemsoflogicanddemocracy inthedenotationofmusicalstructure.Myownawarenessofthoseproblemsstemsfromfortyyearsofworkasamusicologistofthepopular.Backinthe1970sIwascertainlyawareofincongruitieswhentryingtoapply the terminology of conventional music theory to popularmusic,butitwasnotuntilthe1990sthatIstartedtofullyrealisetheextenttowhichthatterminologycanbebothinadequateanddeceptive. It was a gradual process of awakening that, summarisedinthefollowingsixstages,willhopefullymakeforinstructivehistoricalreadingforanyoneinterestedinmusictheoryortheepistemologyofmusic.

    Sixstages[1]WhenIwasveryyoung,mymotherusedtosingtheminorhex

    atonictuneTheTailorandtheMouse.Ialsorememberherhummingionian minichromatic musichall numbers like If You Were TheOnly Girl In The World. My father, a selftaught amateur pianist,couldmuddlethrougheasyarrangementsofminuetsfromMozartsymphoniesandaccompanytraditionaltuneslikethedorianWhatShall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?, as well as ionian nurseryrhymes likeHickoryDickoryDock.1Hecouldalsooccasionallybeheard doodledooing a Glenn Miller orJack Hylton horn riff.

    Then,asateenager,mypianoandorganteacher,KenNaylor,notonlyintroducedmetobebopandBartkbutalsotaughtmetoplayjazzstandardsandtodocloseharmonyarrangements.Withthatmusicalbackground,whichIlaterdiscoveredwasconsideredunusuallyeclecticbyothers,IbecameamusicstudentatCambridgeUniversityintheearly1960sandwasconfrontedbyanalmostex

    1. References:[1]TheTailorandtheMouse(Eng.trad.,Tagg2009c);[2]IfYouWereTheOnlyGirl(Como1946);[3]WhatShallWeDoWithTheDrunkenSailor?

    (Eng.trad.);[4]HickoryDickoryDock(Eng.nurseryrhyme).

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    Tagg: Troubles with tonal terminology (2011/2013) 3

    clusivelyeuroclassicalworld.Duringmythreeyearsatthatinstitution (196265) I had to actively seek out musical opportunitiesoutsidetheacademy,notonlyforprosacfinancialreasonsbutalso

    topreservemyownpsychosociomusicalsanity.Ijoineda aScottish country danceband and a soul/R&B combo while trying tofind the time,even if Irarely found the inclination,to completethis motet in the style of Palestrina.2 Before studying at Cam

    bridgeIhadnotmetmanywhoheardonesortofmusicasintrinsicallysuperiortoanother,butduringmytimeinthatprivilegedDisneylandoftheEnglishRenaissanceIfoundmyselfrepeatedlytrying to convince those who held such onesided views of aes

    theticexcellencethattheyweremissingsomething.Therein,Isuppose,lietheoriginsofmysubsequentcareerasmusicologistofthepopular.ThefirstcoherentwritingIproducedonthatsubjectwasmydoctoralthesis(Tagg1979).

    [2] One of the main points in the explanation of popular musicanalysismethodpresented inmyPhDwas that thehierarchy ofprimary(scribal)andsecondary(nonscribal)parametersofexpressionwasinapplicabletomusicwhosemediationrarelyrelied

    onnotationandwhoseexpressivedynamicresidedinboutsoftheextended present (intensional aesthetic) rather than in longtermharmonic and melodic narrative (extensional).3 Another criticalpointwasinsistenceonasemioticapproachtomusicanalysisandonthenotionthatthoughtsaboutmusicalstructurationshouldincludediscussionofitsmeanings.

    [3]Invitedin1984byCorintorunpopularmusicanalysisseminarsattheCursoslatinoamericanosdemsicacontemporneainTatu,

    Brazil,IwassalutarilyobligedtoconfrontmyEuroNorthAmericanculturallimitationsandtolistenwithopenearstopreviouslyunfamiliartypesofmusic.Withhelpfromotherteachersandfromcourseparticipants,Igainedinsightsintohowtheactualsoundsofpopular musics in Latin America, like those of many popularstylesfrommyownpartoftheworld,couldnotbeadequatelyde

    2. CompletethismotetinthestyleofPalestrina,thisinventioninthestyleofBach,thispianoquartetinthestyleofBrahmsetc.weretypicalendofyear

    compositionexamquestions.

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    4 Tagg:Troubles with tonal terminology (2011/2013)

    scribed using the terminology of conventional music theory.Corin alsobrought to my attention the work of Carlos VegawhosewritingsonpopularmusicIlaterfoundusefulinexplaining

    thefunctionsofharmonyinchordshuttlesandloops.4[4]Whenquestioningreductionistandethnocentricassumptionsabout the structural traits of black and white in music (Tagg1989), I stumbled on strange contradictions in terminology descriptiveofrhythmandmetre.Firstly,the1958HarvardDictionaryofMusicentryonDottedNotesreferstotheScotchsnapasthereverseoftheordinarydottedrhythm,notingthat[i]nverteddottingisveryfrequentinOrientalandinprimitive[sic]music,where

    thenormaldottedrhythmisratherrare.Whoops!Ifordinaryandnormalarerareandifthereverseorinverseisveryfrequent,linguisticlogichasbrokendown,unlesstheoxymoronisintendedasa rhetorical device.5 Secondly, if syncopation is, according to thesame Harvard Dictionary, any deliberate upsetting of the normalpulseofmetre,accentandrhythm,andif[o]ursystemofmusical

    3. SeeExtendedpresentinChapter8ofTagg(2012).AccordingtoHall(1992:209),[b]asicto[LeonardB]MeyersargumentarethedifferencesbetweenprimaryandsecondaryparametersTheprimaryparametersmelody, rhythm,harmonyaresyntacticbecausetheycandefineclosureThesecondaryparameterstempo,dynamics,texture,timbrearestatisticalratherthansyntacticbecausetheychangeonlyinquantityandthereforecannotcreateclosureAcentraltheme[ofMeyer(1989),underreview]isthatsecondaryparametersgainincreasingdominanceoverprimaryparametersandsyntacticprocessesthroughthenineteenthcenturyandintothetwentieth.Thistrendleadstotheincreasingstructuralimportanceofstatisticalplansasopposedtosyntacticscripts,andtotheoverwhelmingstatisticalclimaxesbywhichunrealizedimplications[and]unresolvedtensionsareabsorbedand

    absolved(p.268).SinceMeyerhimselfseemswellawareoftheincongruity(theincreasingdominanceofsecondaryoverprimaryparameters,etc.),itisnothishistoricalobservationsthataretheproblembuttheactualtermsprimaryandsecondary.TheConciseOxfordDictionary(1995)presentsthefirstmeaningsofprimaryasofthefirstimportance,chief;fundamentalwhilesecondaryisprimarily(sic)definedascomingafterornextbelowwhatisprimary;derivedfromordependingonorsupplementingwhatisprimary.Ifwhatseemedoncetobeprimaryandsecondarycan,inthelightofmusicalevidence,nolongerbeusefullyconceptualisedinsuchclearlyhierarchicalterms,moreaccurate,nonhierarchicalconceptsbecomeanecessity.Perhapsweshouldbetalkingaboutscribalandnonscribal,ornotatable(transcriptibleinFrench)

    andnonnotatable(nontranscriptible)parameters.

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    Tagg: Troubles with tonal terminology (2011/2013) 5

    rhythmrestsuponthegroupingofequalbeatsintogroupsoftwoandthree,witharegularlyrecurringaccentonthefirstbeatofeachgroup,then [a]nydeviationfromthisschemeisfeltasadistur

    banceorcontradictionbetweentheunderlying(normal)pulseandtheactual(abnormal)rhythm.Thisdefinitionmeansthat syncopationcanonlyoccurinmonometricmusicbecause,assoonastwometrescooccur, disturbanceinonebeatpattern(the abnormalrhythm)isnormallythenormintheother,andbecausetogetherthosetwopatternsproduceacompositenormofcrossrhythm,asinglemetricunitinapermanentstateofcontradiction.Itssimplywrongtoqualifyassyncopatedwhateverthoseofusfromamono

    metricbackgroundhappentohearasmetricallyabnormal.6[5]Duringthe1990sanincreasingnumberofstudentsinmypopularmusicanalysisseminarscamefromdisciplinesotherthanmusic[ology]. I soon discovered that these students were highly

    4. SeeChapters1012inTagg(2009a).Shuttle=lanzadera,vaivn(repeatedtoandfrobetweentwochords);loop=lazo,vuelta(short,repeatedcircleofusuallythreeorfourchords).Vegasconceptofbimodalitywasusefulinexplainingharmonyinmanydifferenttypesofpopularmusic.

    5. Allitalicsandunderliningsaremine.ForathoroughdiscussionoftheScotchsnap,seeTagg(2011a).

    6. NeitherSubSaharancrossrhythmnotthefluctuatingtoandfropatternsofdownbeatplacementinstyleslikecandombe,merengue,rumbaorsonmontunoconstitutesyncopationbecausewhatsoundslikemetricdisturbanceinourearsisanintrinsicpartoftheongoingnorm.Itshouldalsobenotedthatthetermpolyrhythm(literally=morethanonerhythmatthesametime)isoftenusedconfusinglytodenoteSubSaharancrossrhythm.Unlessthemusicisstrictlyhomophonicandcontainsnocontrapuntalelements,allpolyphonicmusicfeaturesmorethanonesimultaneousrhythmandisthereforepolyrhy

    thmic.Polymetricity(morethanonemetreatthesametime)maybeaviabletermforpeoplebroughtupinamonometricmusicculturewhowanttograsptherhythmicprinciplesofSubSaharanmusicsbutthatisnothowthemusicsusersandscholarshearit.Forthemitscrossrhythm,asinglemetreinapermanentstateofcontradiction(Tagg