Music Theory – how to understand the shifting emphasis of notes


The whole idea of the relative and changing emphasis of notes is very important in tonality, although the basis of the theory never seems to be discussed in this way. Modal and pre-renaissance cultures tend/tended to have more intuitive shifts of emphasis, as in Indian raga where the shifting of emphasis/importance is intuitive rather than deliberate and fixed. Formal concrete changes like a harmonic progression can be seen as a switching, an abrupt change at certain points every few beats or bars. Western modulation and harmony can be seen as a subset approach, a change of the notes that belong. There are softer ways of re-emphasising different notes within a scale or between scales, and in jazz, often the chords themselves are the framework mechanism rather than scales. There is always a dialogue between the 3 or 4 note emphasising and the 7 notes you're drawing them from. The blues circumvents that scale centredness with this dominant 7ths based I-IV-V framework, which subverts scale orientation.


My approach to music is modal. There are ways to reconfigure the changing emphasis of different tones. Modulation, harmonic progression - I question the usual base definitions of those. They are constructs to question, to look at and to reinterpret and redefine in meaningful ways. Modulation can be change of tonal set, one set of notes changing to another. It can also mean the same tonal set, but with a different tonal centre, or a shift of emphases. There are many softer, even pastel ways, to create the changing textures and colours of harmony and note importances.





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