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  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: March 2008

13 - Tonal organization in seventeenth-century music theory

from A - Mapping tonal spaces
Summary
Seventeenth-century theory comprises a rich mixture of myth, scientific research, rules for composition, and basic musical training. This chapter focuses on seventeenth-century theories of tonal organization that emanate from these various constituents. The conception of tonal space during the seventeenth century is founded on an inherited gamut that comprises litterae, background letters, and voces, hexachordally organized syllables. Solmization according to the system of hexachords remained little changed throughout the century. The eight tonalities that arose as accompaniments or substitutes for the eight psalm tones are known as 'psalm tone tonalities' or 'church keys' by modern scholars. the seventeenth century, transpositions were performed not only on compositions, but also on tonalities themselves; thus the church keys could be transposed to suit differing vocal ranges. As taught by Gasparini, the skill of making quick and easy transpositions on sight required, not only the mental insertion of key signatures, but also the substitution of a different clef in front of the notes.
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The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053471
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521623711
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