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Roots of the ClassicalThe Popular Origins of Western Music$
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Peter Van der Merwe

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780198166474

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198166474.001.0001

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The Evolution of Tonality

The Evolution of Tonality

(p.116) 9 The Evolution of Tonality
Roots of the Classical

Peter van der Merwe

Oxford University Press

This chapter outlines the evolution of tonality from its beginnings in the early 16th century to the maturity of the Classical style in the late 18th century. The two main processes were ones that, first, from very early on the chords making up simple harmonic formulas, came to be preceded by their own ‘applied’ dominants, which then developed into systematically contrasted keys; and secondly, that from the early 18th century composers found new uses for the tonic-and-dominant progression. A momentous discovery was the split dominant (tonic–dominant dominant–tonic), arrived at by uncoupling harmonic rhythm from phrase rhythm. This harmonic simplicity made possible the structural complexities of the Classical style.

Keywords:   dominant chord, applied dominant, split dominant, key, Classical style

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