Author Topic: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds  (Read 1031 times)

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Ron

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Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« on: July 08, 2017, 07:42:32 AM »
We all know about the cycle of 5ths and how it dominated music in the 18th century and persisted in popular forms well into the 20ieth. But, there are other harmonic cycles.


In my early teens my mentors took me to concerts by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Massey Hall. Those who know my story will know that I never heard any "classical" music before I left home at 14. In any case, on one program was a work by Harry Somers. I was enthralled by the harmonic progression. It seemed as if he was moving by thirds. C - E - G - Bb - D - F# - A - C. I had never heard anything like it before. It seemed "natural" and, at the same time, exotic.


Much later in a formal study of Beethoven's piano sonatas I discovered that Beethoven was making use of modulations to the mediant of the scale, rather than to the dominant or sub-dominant as was expected in his time. So, there's an early example of a cycle of thirds approach.
 
Many of my works are based on cycles of 3rds. I love the odd soft jarring of Cmin -> Amaj -> Fmin -> Dmaj for example. You can often create a cycle where only one note is altered in each subsequent chord, but I like altering 2 of them. In Cmin -> Amaj both the C and E are altered.


Below is a short exercise (Pers_3_2.pdf and .mp3) in which I use an ascending series of triadic harmonies on progressions by 3rds. Also, is a document, cycle of thirds.pdf with some ideas. The possibilities are much greater than the cycle of 5ths offers.


What can you do with these ideas?
Ron
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2017, 08:03:29 AM »
Ralph Vaughan-Williams used a method of movement by thirds that permeates all of his music.

There were a number of variants, involving both the type of interval for the movement, and the actual mode of each chord in a sequence.

For example, a sequence could move by -3 , +3 , -3 , +3, etc... alternating minor and major thirds.
Meanwhile, the chords themselves would mirror this movement by being each in a different mode, for example minor chord, major chord, minor chord, major chord.

RVW would vary this by opposing the colour of the chord with the type of movement, or using all of the same quality with different intervals for movement. It's all quite fascinating and inspiring.
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2017, 08:48:26 AM »
thought I'd post an example of this harmonic process that's very transparent and obvious.

Ralph Vaughan-Williams: Sinfonia Antartica
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Periwink

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2017, 02:29:09 AM »
Quite interesting! Do you happen to know any examples of progression in 2nds as well?
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Ron

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2017, 06:13:01 AM »
Quite interesting! Do you happen to know any examples of progression in 2nds as well?

Barber's Adagio for Strings has several instances of harmonic movement by 2nds. There are others (I believe a section of Prokoviev's "Classical Symphony" (2nd movement)). It's not as common a a movement by 3rds and not as easily recognizable. After all a dominant - submediant - subtonic - tonic is quite possible in common practice.
Ron
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2017, 06:43:59 AM »
the problem with movement by 2nds is that in triadic harmony it tends to sound facile and "pop" ish. this is due to the very obvious parallel octaves/5ths. we are so used to hearing triadic harmony use more inventive processes that movement by 2nds tends to sound "cheap".

However, the more complex your chord structures become, moving away from common-practice, movement by 2nds loses this "cheap" quality. For example movement by 2nds works REALLY well with polyharmony. Any sort of dense harmonic structures like Debussian overtone harmony (11th chords), in fact.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

RJB54

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2017, 07:21:28 AM »
People tend to think of Kurt Weill as a more pop oriented composer but in his concert pieces (Symphony #1, Violin Concerto, String Quartet, etc.) he frequently posited chords in fourths/fifths with the bass movement by fourths/fifths creating an impression of diatonic movement while creating chord progressions via movement by 2nds in one or more voices.
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.
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whitebark

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2017, 09:19:20 PM »

Ron

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2017, 09:37:35 AM »
It is fun, Jay. Quite the run for a pianist!
Ron
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whitebark

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« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 08:43:59 PM by whitebark »

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Harmonic Progressions by 3rds
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2017, 08:32:01 AM »
In the movement Return to the Hive from my Bagatelles, I have the following progression.

D7♯9 - F7♯9 - D7♯9 - F7♯9 - A7♯9 - C7♯9 - D7♯9

http://allhands.com/pdf/kowalski_bagatelles.pdf#page=29

It's purposefully a bit jarring in its presentation, in that there isn't much to smooth out the transitions.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 08:35:45 AM by Jamie Kowalski »