Author Topic: Harmonic "Motion"  (Read 2118 times)

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Ron

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    • The Music of Ronald J Brown
Harmonic "Motion"
« on: June 07, 2011, 10:23:36 AM »
I've mentioned this a few time in posts and realize that some less experienced members might not know what I am talking about. Music should feel like it is going somewhere. A professor once said at the end of a piece you should feel as though you've been on a journey. Simply plunking down notes and putting some nice-sounding intervals against them doesn't work--that leaves the listener unsatisfied.

Some harmonies seem to "naturally" follow others. That is primarily because the notes that make up the two chords are moving step-wise up or down, or don't move at all.  A semi-tone motion seems to "draw" one more strongly than a whole tone interval. If all the notes in a series of chords belong to the same scale it is not as interesting to the ear than if notes are introduced that do not "belong." This is the basis of classical modulation (moving from one key to another). Now that we have literally hundreds of scales at our disposal we talk about moving the "tonal center" rather than "changing keys."

Attached are a few examples of basic chord progressions that give a sense of direction (or not). The first four examples are more traditional, while the last one is more contemporary. However, the principle remains the same no matter what scales or tonal centres we are using.

Another way to look at harmonic progression is in the degree of dissonance. For example, a standard dominant 7th chord has a dissonant interval in it (the 7th). We feel as though the harmony has "moved" when that 7th "resolves" to a more harmonious interval.

When working on a piece the composer should have a clear idea of the kinds of harmonic movement he is going to use. That doesn't mean that a pattern repeats mechanically--music "flows" much better when there are unexpected twists and turns. Also, the harmony itself has a rhythm: it should not always change on the same beat. If it does, we feel that the music is "blocky."

Anyhow, hope that spurs some thoughts.

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Ron
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