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#1149231 - 06/06/08 05:34 AM Whole tone: an obsolete quagmire?
Eternal Music Student Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/31/08
Posts: 55
Loc: Nashville
Hi everyone. This is my first post on this board.

I'm working on a new piano piece. At the end of the first section I'm drawn to using whole tone harmony on a C7 chord, for two bars. I've tried other things, but keep coming back to the WT sound. But, it's so hard to coherently resolve this sound into anything else, with good voice leading. I need to get to F minor, and don't want to sit on the WT sound for very long. WT harmony seems like a quagmire--some extreme action is needed to escape from it, or you're stuck!

Do any of you composers ever use this sound, especially in short passages?
Hours of fun!

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#1149232 - 06/06/08 09:45 AM Re: Whole tone: an obsolete quagmire?
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2051
Welcome to the boards. I find that standard voice leading and whole-tone scales don't necessarily mix. It's like trying to shoe-horn Debussy into the rules that governed Bach. Both are excellent techniques in and of themselves, but they may not play together all that well.

I have used whole-tone scales, but in more modern type music where I didn't worry so much about the voice-leading in a "standard" sense.

In your particular case, maybe you could do something like hold an A-flat in the RH, and in the LH, play around with something like C-D-E-C and then move to the F in the LH - bringing you from "whole-tone-land" into the realm of f minor.
What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.

#1149233 - 06/06/08 01:22 PM Re: Whole tone: an obsolete quagmire?
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
Hi Eternal Music Student,
Are you using C wholetone scale (C D E F# G# Bb) in a linear fashion? The E note is the leading tone of F - simply resolve to the F natural when you need to get to the Fm chord (e.g., ...C D E F# G# Bb C D E F). Also, the C and G# (Ab) notes are common tones with Fm. I'd say this opens up a quite a few solutions with good voice leading.

#1149234 - 06/08/08 05:21 AM Re: Whole tone: an obsolete quagmire?
Eternal Music Student Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/31/08
Posts: 55
Loc: Nashville
Thank you 8ude and Harmosis for your quick & intelligent responses. The idea I was trying to use was a sequenced melody echoing the previous material, but "descending" into the whole tone sound for a moment. I've now ditched this & found another way to "get to F minor" for those 2 bars.

I used WT in a previous piece, but it was in a longer phrase that started with that sound, like a "gimmick".

P.S.: An alternative to WT as a 6-note symmetric scale that I like is the "augmented" or "satan lite" scale:

C Eb E G Ab Cb C

Scriabin used this sound, as in op.42 n.3.
Hours of fun!

#1149235 - 06/08/08 01:35 PM Re: Whole tone: an obsolete quagmire?
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
Glad to help!

That Scriabin scale lends itself to some interesting ideas.


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