Lesson 5: moving and linking the chords

I want to start by saying that the beginning of this lesson has been very difficult
and the grave tone with which Kretzschmar welcomed me this afternoon
was perhaps meant to forebode the centrality of the premise that was to precede today's lesson.

Before beginning he felt the duty to inform me that, starting from this lesson,
his words might not always have a manifestly objective value.

"For how long can a fashion define itself as law and how many are they,
in the end, the laws that survive the suspect of fashion?"

The difficulty of this lesson is that of introducing criteria that no longer refer to nature,
but which implicates subjective and sometimes arguably esthetic evaluations.

Below I relate some points of this premise that I want to retain, and then the lesson on the movements.

"We have come to define all the chords of the 12 major tonalities;
we know how to build and recognize them.
Our goal now is to use them in order to build a coherent sound structure, pleasant and expressive,
that is to alternate them, mix them in search of a satisfaction at least acoustically, for the time being.

It is at this point that musical theory develops a series of bans, prescriptions,
restrictions and exceptions that often have an historical justification,
rather than a practical one, and mirror the tastes and feeling of a past that is remote to us.

They can be useful to philological ends
to those who would like to write a chorus in a severe style or a 1700's suite,
but many of the bans defining those styles
in contemporary practice have found a number of justifications to their use
and are now part of the common musical awareness.

The study and analysis of the rules and postulates over which music of the various styles has been built,
is useful to help catch and control the processes of the formation of our musical system,
observing its development, its emancipation
and finally to decide what must essentially remain of them in order to still call it a system.

It is a problem that you will have to face as a composer,
because every composer creates his own system,
and at the end, each one of them must find the truth on his own.

We will now start this course beginning with writing sequences of chords in eight bars,
but before it is necessary to establish some behaviors.

The chords which we shall write in these sequences
will be formed by 4 voices (notes which, from now on, I shall call more elegantly voices).

Since the known chords so far comprise only 3 voices (root, third and fifth),
it will be necessary to double one of these three notes
(and generally this doubling will not be at the unison,
but at a distance of superior or inferior octave between the doubled voices).

In the choice of the note to be doubled we have some considerations to take into account:

1) If the chord contains the root, the 4th. or the 5th. of the tonic (as the tonal notes are called), those will take precedence in the redoubling.

if we are to build the chord on the 3rd. degree of the C tonality
(that is to say the E Minor, composed of E, G, B), the doubling of the 3rd. (G),
can produce an advisable result since G is the 5th.of the tonality of C.

In this case the chord will be built by E, G, G, B.
2) The order of preference applied to doubling one of the 3 notes of the chord is generally this:
best is the root, then the 5th. and lastly, the 3rd.

Moreover, we still have to note that the chords might be written in strict or broad position.

Strict position is when the three superior voices are as close as possible,
that is, they do not exceed the extension of 8 (while in broad position, the 8 can be exceeded).

An "elegant" writing does not surpass the interval of 8 between two nearby parts. Between bass and the 3 superior notes a wider distance than that between the 3 superior notes is very common.

Il movimento tra voci dell'accordo potrà essere

quando le voci si muovono in direzioni opposte
quando una voce è ferma e l'altra muove, salendo o scendendo
quando le due voci si muovono nella stessa direzione
quando le voci si muovono nella stessa direzione mantenedo la stessa distanza tra loro),

The movement amongst voices of the chord can be parallel
(when the voices are moving towards the same direction),
oblique (that is when one of the voices move and others are still),
contrary (when the voices are moving in opposite directions).

Moreover, the horizontal movement can be jointed
(that is towards the nearest note, both ascending and descending),
or disjointed (that is proceeding by a jump).
It is good practice to make a jump followed by a joined movement in the opposite direction of the jump.

And that is where the bans and restrictions begin:
It is prohibited to move 2 voices in a way that forms two unisons,
two fifths or 2 octaves, one unison or a consecutive octave.
This is valid both for forward or backward movement.

It is a common opinion that these movements produce a hard, unpleasant and weak effect, perhaps because they put the independence of the parts in jeopardy.
However this movement is avoided in all times and styles.

Much attention and caution has also been suggested by the interval of 5th. or 8th. direct
(also called hidden or parallel), that which is produced by two voices moving in the same direction,
producing a 5th. or an 8th. as in the following example:

In the composition, this prohibition has found many exceptions and waivers.
What still remains inadvisable
is presenting these intervals in direct movement on the extreme parts of the chord,
that is between the lowest and highest of the voices,
especially if the high part moves by jump.


avoiding moving the bass by joint interval,
while the highest voice moves by jump, thus forming the 5th. and 8th. direct.

It is more tolerated that the bass moves by jump and the highest voice by joint interval.
Finally, as a general rule it is correct to link chords choosing the shortest route for the voices
(that is moving towards the note of the chord which offers the shortest move),
and to maintain the link or repeat in the same position the common notes
that will eventually be linked to the 2 chords.

This indication is nevertheless valid in these first examples of harmony in the pre-musical phase.
Practice will lead us to introduce the 5th. or 8th. direct or consecutive, with less restrictive procedures.

We must note that the only degrees that do not have common notes among them are the adjacent ones,
both in ascending and descending.
These links will not have tied notes as the others.

the I does not have common notes with the II and VII;
the IV does not have common notes with the V and III.

In these links it will be best to move the voices in contrary motion,
so as to avoid 5 or 8 consecutive or hidden,
meaning contrary motion is necessary in the link amongst nearby degrees.

Therefore when a contiguous movement to the bass is present,
the other notes move (possibly) by contrary movement.
If bass descends, the other notes arise and vice versa.

At the end of this long lesson the Maestro advised me to exercise at home
in linking all the chords of the Major mode,
exploring all the links offered by those 7 degrees in a systematic way,
linking together first the I with the II, III with IV, V, VI, VII,
then the II with all the other degrees and so forth.

Unfortunately, this study, he specified, does not offer any possibility for musical enjoyment;
it is a pre-musical study for the pen and the eyes.
But in compositional practice it is necessary to be completely prepared on the behavior of the parts,
beginning with the linking of chords.
And for the time being I adhere to his systematic approach,
hoping to as soon as possibile exhaust the study of problems which are – all told – simple
(and also rather boring,) and contend with more complex and interesting duties,
those investing the true creative process, with all its expressive, subjective and stylistic implications.

Overall, even if I am mortally bored,
I trust in the coherence of the teaching course by Kretzschmar
and I know that we will soon arrive to the verification of all these norms.

And on the other hand the reasoning of the Maestro is very simple: if by analyzing the music left to us by the great masters we can draw these general rules it is highly likely that that these same laws might help to write more of it.
This is his hypothesis.

I am asking myself if instead these researches to define a golden rule working in the musical field,
a sort of mathematical or logical formula of musical beauty
could not rather be just a series of laws and rules
useful only to propose again the great masterpieces to which Kretzschmar often refers,
perhaps with elegant and virtuosice variations that do not change,
however, the substance of what has already been written.

Those doubts of mine, that so far I have not expressed to the Maestro,
will need to be verified, and this verification can only happen at the end of the course
that the Maestro is showing me.
That is why I shall follow it to the end,
beginning with the exercises on the linking of chords that he proposed to me at the end of this fifth meeting.

Then we shall see.

This first series of links (above) was conducted by Adrian
directly in an exercise book and not on a music sheet, as he will do later on.
That is why they have been spared destruction.

I suppose he wanted to define the whole process of the exercises that he was to develop at home.
Infact here the I degree is linked to all the others (aside from the VII dissonant),
in the three positions in which a chord, composed by 4 voices, can be written,
with the doubling of the fifth and in root state.

While on the music sheet he certainly proceeded linking first the II, then the III and so on,
all the following degrees, he linked in the three possible positions.

I believe that the link I – IV, conducted with values of ¼ (the black notes),
wanted to signal two adequate solutions even if in the first case the IV forms an octave by straight motion
(that however, is within the inner voice and is therefore indicated).