Tymoczko, Dmitri: A Geometry Of Music - Harmony and Counterpoint in the Extended Common Practice

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Catalogue No: 9780195336672
Shop Product Code: 254034P
A Geometry Of Music - Harmony and Counterpoint in the Extended Common Practice

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Department: School Musicals & Ensembles - Educational Textbooks & Curriculum Materials

Publisher: Oxford University Press

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How is the Beatles' "Help!" similar to Stravinsky's "Dance of the Adolescents?" How does Radiohead's "Just" relate to the improvisations of Bill Evans? And how do Chopin's works exploit the non-Euclidean geometry of musical chords?

In this groundbreaking work, author Dmitri Tymoczko describes a new framework for thinking about music that emphasizes the commonalities among styles from medieval polyphony to contemporary rock. Tymoczko identifies five basic musical features that jointly contribute to the sense of tonality, and shows how these features recur throughout the history of Western music. In the process he sheds new light on an age-old question: what makes music sound good?

A Geometry of Music provides an accessible introduction to Tymoczko's revolutionary geometrical approach to music theory. The book shows how to construct simple diagrams representing relationships among familiar chords and scales, giving readers the tools to translate between the musical and visual realms and revealing surprising degrees of structure in otherwise hard-to-understand pieces.

Tymoczko uses this theoretical foundation to retell the history of Western music from the eleventh century to the present day. Arguing that traditional histories focus too narrowly on the "common practice" period from 1680-1850, he proposes instead that Western music comprises an extended common practice stretching from the late middle ages to the present. He discusses a host of familiar pieces by a wide range of composers, from Bach to the Beatles, Mozart to Miles Davis, and many in between.

A Geometry of Music is accessible to a range of readers, from undergraduate music majors to scientists and mathematicians with an interest in music. Defining its terms along the way, it presupposes no special mathematical background and only a basic familiarity with Western music theory. The book also contains exercises designed to reinforce and extend readers' understanding, along with a series of appendices that explore the technical details of this exciting new theory.


User-friendly introduction to a radically new approach to music theory and tonality
New interpretation of the history of Western music reveals surprising commonalities among different musical styles
Hundreds of original diagrams and illustrations

"As far as I know, the intersection of those who are distinguished composers and those who have published in Science contains one member: the author of this book. If you are interested in tonality in music, you must read it, because it describes by far the most comprehensive theory of what makes tonal music work." --Philip Johnson-Laird, Stuart Professor of Psychology, Princeton University

"A Geometry of Music is an epoch-making publication in music theory and will certainly stimulate other new and innovative work in the field. Tymoczko has produced an outstandingly original synthesis of new music theory that unifies quite a large number of separate subfields and realizes the theorist's dream of finding the rational basis for tonality and tonal-compositional practices in music." --Daniel Harrison, Allen Forte Professor of Music Theory and Chair, Yale University Department of Music

"A provocative and ingenious melding of music, geometry, and history that promises to change the way that composers, music theorists, and cognitive scientists view music." --
Gary Marcus, Professor of Psychology, New York University and author of Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of The Human Mind

"Tymoczko's A Geometry of Music is an appealingly written, substantial treatise on tonal harmony. The author introduces his original concepts with clarity and fearlessness. Musicologists, musicians, and listeners with an analytical bent will find plenty of ideas to chew on in this intriguing, rewarding book." --Vijay Iyer, musician

"Tymoczko confronts with apparent relish the daunting challenge of selling his ideas to a broad audience of theorists, composers, musicians, and students, and his ability to capture the intricacies of complex material while presenting it clearly and comprehensibly is praiseworthy...If the author's way of doing music theory or promulgating his results is not quite like most of the music theory that we have learned and taught, that is hardly a sufficient reason why we should not give his powerful ideas the attention they deserve." --Music Theory Online

Product Details:

480 pages; 363 music examples, 98 halftones; 7 x 10; ISBN13: 978-0-19-533667-2
ISBN10: 0-19-533667-4

About the Author:

Dmitri Tymoczko is a composer and music theorist who teaches at Princeton University. His CD Beat Therapy is available from Bridge records.

Contents and Reviews


PART I. Theory CHAPTER 1. Five Components of Tonality 1.1 The five features. 1.2. Perception and the five features. 1.3 Four Claims. A. Harmony and counterpoint constrain each other. B. Scale, macroharmony, and centricity are independent. C. Modulation involves voice leading. D. Music can be understood geometrically. 1.4 Music, magic, and language. 1.5 Outline of the book, and a suggestion for impatient readers. CHAPTER 2. Harmony and Voice Leading 2.1 Linear pitch space. 2.2 Circular pitch-class space. 2.3 Transposition and inversion as distance-preserving functions. 2.4 Musical objects. 2.5 Voice leadings and chord progressions. 2.6 Comparing voice leadings. 2.7 Voice-leading size. 2.8 Near identity. 2.9 Harmony and counterpoint revisited. 2.10 Acoustic consonance and near-evenness CHAPTER 3. The Geometry of Chords 3.1 Ordered pitch space. 3.2 The Parable of the Ant. 3.3 Two-note chord space. 3.4 Chord progressions and voice leadings in two-note chord space. 3.5 Geometry in analysis. 3.6 Harmonic consistency and efficient voice leading. 3.7 Pure parallel and pure contrary motion. 3.8 Three-dimensional chord space. 3.9 Higher-dimensional chord spaces. 3.10 Voice leading lattices. 3.11 Triads are from Mars, seventh chords are from Venus. 3.12 Two musical geometries. 3.13 Study guide. CHAPTER 4. Scales 4.1 A scale is a ruler. 4.2 Scale degrees, scalar transposition, scalar inversion. 4.3 Evenness and scalar transposition. 4.4 Constructing common scales. 4.5 Modulation and voice leading. 4.6 Voice leading between common scales . 4.7 Two examples. 4.8 Scalar and interscalar transposition. 4.9 Interscalar transposition and voice leading. 4.10 Combining interscalar and chromatic transpositions. CHAPTER 5. Macroharmony and Centricity 5.1 Macroharmony. 5.2 Small-gap macroharmony. 5.3 Pitch-class circulation. 5.4 Modulating the rate of pitch-class circulation. 5.5 Macroharmonic consistency. 5.6 Centricity. 5.7 Where does centricity come from? 5.8 Beyond "tonal" and "atonal." PART II. History and Analysis CHAPTER 6. The Extended Common Practice 6.1 Disclaimers. 6.2 Two-voice medieval counterpoint. 6.3 Triads and the Renaissance. 6.4 Functional harmony. 6.5 Schumann's Chopin. 6.6 Chromaticism. 6.7 Twentieth-century scalar music. 6.8 The extended common practice. CHAPTER 7. Functional Harmony 7.1 The thirds-based grammar of elementary tonal harmony. 7.2 Voice leading in functional harmony. 7.3 Sequences. 7.4 Modulation and key distance. 7.5 The two lattices. 7.6 A challenge from Schenker. CHAPTER 8. Chromaticism 8.1 Decorative chromaticism. 8.2 Generalized augmented sixths. 8.3 Brahms and Schoenberg. 8.4 Schubert and the major-third system. 8.5 Chopin's tesseract. 8.6 The Tristan Prelude. 8.7 Alternative approaches. 8.8 Conclusion CHAPTER 9. Scales in Twentieth-Century Music 9.1 Three scalar techniques. 9.2 Chord-first composition. A. Grieg's "Drommesyn," (Vision), Op. 62 no. 5 (1895). B. Debussy's "Fetes" (1899). C. Michael Nyman's "The Mood That Passes Through You" (1993). 9.3 Scale-first composition. A. Debussy's "Des pas sur la neige" (1910). B. Janacek's "On an Overgrown Path," Series II, no. 1 (1908). C. Shostakovich's Fs minor Prelude and Fugue, Op. 87 (1950). D. Reich's "New York Counterpoint" (1985). E. Reich's "The Desert Music," movement 1 (1984). F. The Who's "Can't Explain" (1965) and Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" (1973). 9.4 The Subset Technique. A. Grieg's "Klokkeklang," (Bell Ringing), Op. 54 no. 6 (1891). B. "Petit Airs," from Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat (1918). C. Reich's "City Life" (1995). D. Stravinsky's "Dance of the Adolescents" (1913). E. The Miles Davis Group's "Freedom Jazz Dance" (1966). 9.5 Conclusion. CHAPTER 10. Jazz. 10.1 Basic jazz voicings. 10.2 From thirds to fourths. 10.3 Tritone substitution. 10.4 Altered chords and scales. 10.5 Bass and upper-voice tritone substitutions. 10.6 Polytonality, sidestepping, and "playing out." 10.7 Bill Evans's "Oleo." 10.8 Jazz as modernist synthesis. CONCLUSION APPENDIX A. Measuring voice-leading size APPENDIX B. Chord geometry: a technical look. APPENDIX C. Discrete voice leading lattices. APPENDIX D. The interscalar interval matrix. APPENDIX E. Scale, macroharmony, and Lerdahl's "basic space." APPENDIX F. Some study questions, problems, and activities.