MUS 212 Study Guide L (Chapter 12)

The Close of the Nineteenth Century ...

Return to Home Page

Return to MUS 212 Menu

On pp. 330-331 is a review of the general characteristics of traditional musical practices from the previous three centuries.  A perusal of these characteristics may prove beneficial in more aptly understanding the contrasts which occurred toward the end of the 19th century.

  1. Of all the areas of music which were affected by new trends, the very concept of tonality bore the brunt of the early forces of change.

Triads in Chromatic Third Relationship

  1. Diatonic triads with roots a 3rd apart have two tones in common, e.g., F A C - A C E.  If one of the triads is altered to produce a different major or minor triad, but with the same letter names or enharmonic equivalents, a chromatic third relationship results.

    Following are chords which have a chromatic third relationship with C major:

    A C# E or Bbb Db Fb C E G Eb G Bb or D# Fx A#
    Ab C Eb or G# B# D# C E G Eb Gb Bb or D# F# A#
    Ab Cb Eb or G# B D# C E G E G# B or Fb Ab Cb

    The root must be a M3 or m3 from the original root to constitute a third relationship.  Enharmonic spellings are possible.

  1. In the late 19th century, root movement by chromatic 3rds is often used to:
  • Create frequent changes of key,
  • Cause delay in reaching the tonic, or
  • Obscure the progress of the harmonic movement leading to the ultimate tonic cadence.

Root Movement by Tritone

  1. Root movement by tritone has been seen earlier in such progressions as IV-viio6 and I-viio6/V, and, in harmonic sequences.  Root movement by tritone may be used to create a sudden change in key orientation.  See p. 337.  Here, a harmonic sequence based on tritone relationships obscures the sense of tonality.

Evasion of Tonic

  1. Traditionally, all other harmonies tend to gravitate around and toward tonic.  In the Schumann example on pp. 339-340, he avoids the opening tonic until the close of the excerpt.  Other examples on following pages illustrate situations where the tonic is intentionally "held off" for extended periods of time.

Unconventional Root Movement

  1. Toward the end of the 19th century, movement from chord to chord became freer, to the point where some compositions contain more exceptions than traditional progressions.

Indeterminate Tonic Implication

  1. Some compositions of the late 19th century foreshadow trends of 20th-century composition.  The tonic in some compositions was indeterminate for various reasons:
  • Although a key signature may be given, often the dominant chord, corroborating tonic, in a composition was seldom or incompletely stated.
  • Progressions suggesting distantly-related key areas further weakened a sense of tonic.
  • Chromatic alterations often suggested modal implications.
  • Series of inverted chords sometimes imply distantly-related keys.
  • Occasionally, a work may vacillate between two or more tonic centers.


  1. Increase in root movement by intervals other than the perfect 5th, such as chromatic 3rd and tritone relationships.
  1. Harmonic progressions in which traditional chords resolved in nontraditional ways.
  1. Prolongation of temporary key areas by delaying arrival at V-I via: deceptive resolutions, secondary dominants, diminished 7th chords in succession, etc.
  1. Short-term evasion of tonic accomplished by allowing the harmonic progression to suggest movement to a tonic, but at the point of resolution evading the tonic by chromatic devices that move the sound into a new tonal area.  The effect: wandering key relationships and a vague sense of tonality.

Return to Home Page

Return to MUS 212 Menu