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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 Nineteenth‐Century Vernacular

The Nineteenth‐Century Vernacular

(p.271) 13 The Nineteenth‐Century Vernacular
Roots of the Classical

Peter van der Merwe

Oxford University Press

Nineteenth-century music spoke essentially the same language, regardless of national differences or height of brow. Its most fundamental feature was the increasing independence of melody, which made possible a ‘tonal counterpoint’ between melody and harmony, in which the melodic key was at odds with the harmonic one. Other common features were key mixture, progressive (harmonic) tonality (i.e., starting and ending in the different keys), and harmonic progressions dropping from fifth to fifth, often through a series of dominant chords. The subdominant chord became more important, sometimes taking over the functions of the dominant. Both melody and harmony became increasingly pentatonic, though sometimes in chromatic disguise. As the main structural procedure, antithesis tended to be replaced by climax, in the original sense of a series of statements of increasing emphasis. Especially important was the ‘cadential climax’ or graded cadences.

Keywords:   melody, harmony, tonal counterpoint, key mixture, progressive tonality, subdominant chord, pentatonic, cadential climax

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