Bitonal Polytonal Rules

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tony

Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by tony » Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:06 am

When arranging/composing (using bitonality/polytonality as the approach) are there any rules or restrictions when it comes to using conflicting keys simultaneously?

Frank Nordberg

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by Frank Nordberg » Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:05 am

Yes, there are two:

1) Make sure it works musically
2) If you write for a solo instrument, make sure it's physically possible to play

tony

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by tony » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:56 pm

I probably wasnt clear with my question. Let me try to re-phrase it.

With this approach, esp. with contrary motion, lines will cross. Hindemith and Fux have specific rules about this. I dont know if these same rules apply here.

Heres an example of what I'm getting at:

Lets say I'm using the key of C (main key) against the key of Gb. There is a 2 measure passage on the G7 chord. Lines cross and F simultaneously comes together with Gb (F#). So you have a b7 and a MA7 on the Dominant chord (on a strong beat/downbeat).

Normally, I wouldnt do this (i.e. use a MA7 on a Dom.chord) as it does not sound appropriate to my ear. But when using 2 conflicting keys, I wouldnt expect normalcy as it would have an atonal character to it, more or less. Hence, many passages may not sound appropriate to my ear yet the atonality would lend itself to the piece as a whole. I'm trying to understand if the rules that apply to a diatonic, etc...approach, would apply to bitonal arranging as well.

Frank Nordberg

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by Frank Nordberg » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:04 pm

Sorry if my first reply seemed a bit flippant. I guess it was but there was also an important point I wanted to make: When we compose polytonal or atonal music it's easy to end up with the process becoming more important than the result. That's good if it's only intended as an exercise in composition techinques but not really if the purpose is to write a piece of music that's actually meant to be performed.
tony wrote:With this approach, esp. with contrary motion, lines will cross. Hindemith and Fux have specific rules about this. I dont know if these same rules apply here.
They may but not necessarily. I think it's important to realise that the purpose of the classical choral harmonisation and polyphony rules is to create the fullest possible sound with a relatively limited number of voices within a relatively limited harmonic framework.

In bitonal music the challenge usually is to achieve clarity, not fullness.
tony wrote:Lets say I'm using the key of C (main key) against the key of Gb. There is a 2 measure passage on the G7 chord. Lines cross and F simultaneously comes together with Gb (F#). So you have a b7 and a MA7 on the Dominant chord (on a strong beat/downbeat).
The key word in such a situation is separation. It has to be clear to the listener that the Gb belongs to the Gb major element while the F belongs to the C major element. You can achieve this by placing the two keys with two different instrument groups (if you're wiritng for an ensemble) or in different ranges (if you write for a solo instrument).
tony wrote: I wouldnt expect normalcy as it would have an atonal character to it, more or less.
Do not confuse bitonality with atonality, they are two completely different ideas. In bitonal music we want to establish and maintain two different tonal centers at the same time. Atonal music has the opposite aim, to avoid any tonal centers completely.

tony

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by tony » Mon Jan 21, 2013 8:12 pm

Thx Frank

That is some very helpful info.

On your last point, maintaining 2 tonal centers could prove difficult with the possibility that it could transcend into atonality.

I will look for books/sites on this subject. Some experimentation will be necessary as well but I need a game plan. I'm thinking about recording a simple melody and playing a single-note bass line (in a different key) along with the recording. Then I can transcribe what I like as a whole.

I've dabbled with bitonal arranging on the fly (measure by measure-one phrase at a time) only to come out perplexed and second-guessing myself. I need a new approach until I get the hang of it.

Jimmy Wyble is someone that I have lightly studied but it is the 'Peter Mazza' style I would like to gravitate towards.

My objective is to implement this approach on solo guitar.

tony

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by tony » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:44 pm

Heres Peter Mazza playing Stella By Starlight:

[Direct link to copyrighted material deleted. Members may search YouTube for ""Stella By Starlight" Peter Mazza "Solo Jazz Guitar".]

Frank Nordberg

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by Frank Nordberg » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:10 pm

tony wrote:Heres Peter Mazza playing Stella By Starlight
Wow! Weird and wonderful!

Bill B
Posts: 1052
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:06 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by Bill B » Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:54 am

Lets say I'm using the key of C (main key) against the key of Gb. There is a 2 measure passage on the G7 chord. Lines cross and F simultaneously comes together with Gb (F#). So you have a b7 and a MA7 on the Dominant chord (on a strong beat/downbeat).

I could be wrong, but the problem seems to be that you are trying to analyze both lines from two separate keys with reference to one key. It seems to me that analyzing the Gb in terms of the G7 chord is to think of it not as polytonal at all, but rather simply as chromaticism.
2013 Angel Benito Aguado
2005 Ramirez R-2

tony

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by tony » Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:26 am

Bill

My concern is about 'general rules' as I provided a particular possibilty of what could be an endless line of possibilities.

With the example I presented, I was not thinking chromatically, nor was I thinking in terms of single key relation, but more as a culmination of notes being heard as one sound. I would think that things such as cadences would have to be affected, more or less.

When 2 lines cross, it may be heard as a single event. Perhaps there is a rule that ensures delineation of such instances.

One thing for sure, I've got a mountain to climb.

Thanks for your input.

Frank Nordberg

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by Frank Nordberg » Thu Jan 24, 2013 8:40 am

tony wrote:When 2 lines cross, it may be heard as a single event. Perhaps there is a rule that ensures delineation of such instances.
That is a challenge, not just with polytonal music but also with good old polyphony. If voice (or key) separation is an important issue, there must be some factor to separate them. The most obvious solution is to use different tone colours for the different parts but that is tricky on a solo instrument. (Not always impossible though. I had a similar problem once when I was trying to arrange the medieval tune "Pucelete" for solo guitar. The solution I came up with was to play one voice sul tasto with the thumb, one sul ponticello with the little finr and the third voice with more-or-less regular tone with the other fingers. Made the arrangement extremely hard to play and probably not worth the effort but it did work.
tony wrote:One thing for sure, I've got a mountain to climb.
Haven't we all? Then again, what fun would it be to write new music if it wasn't a challenge?
Last edited by Frank Nordberg on Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Gruupi
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Location: Dallas, TX

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by Gruupi » Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:34 pm

Bitonal Polytonal. I think they make drugs to regulate your hormones now so that this isn't as debilitating :D

Bill B
Posts: 1052
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:06 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by Bill B » Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:12 am

tony wrote:Bill

My concern is about 'general rules' as I provided a particular possibilty of what could be an endless line of possibilities.

With the example I presented, I was not thinking chromatically, nor was I thinking in terms of single key relation, but more as a culmination of notes being heard as one sound. I would think that things such as cadences would have to be affected, more or less.

When 2 lines cross, it may be heard as a single event. Perhaps there is a rule that ensures delineation of such instances.

One thing for sure, I've got a mountain to climb.

Thanks for your input.
Yes, I understood this was just a hypothetical example of the sort of issue that you encounter, but I answered it as it was because I thought it would communicate what seemed to be an important concept.
If you are thinking of one group of notes as a dominant 7th chord, that implies a specific function, and is very much key related. If your goal is, as I thought it was, to maintain the distinction between two differing threads, then it does not seem helpful to me to analyze the resultant harmony in terms of one key.
2013 Angel Benito Aguado
2005 Ramirez R-2

tony

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by tony » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:57 am

Bill

When I have tried this, I fell into a lot of traps. It would sound good for a few measures and suddenly I became confused over what should happen next. Upon analysis, I would encounter line movement and harmony that defied the fundamentals, even though I wasnt too fundamentaly concerned over what preceeded (the consistancy was there).

If I were to stay technical, the music became too technical. If I opted to bring the 2 keys together to avoid these traps, it became melodically fitting. However, the music that followed the single key resolution seemed to dictate that only one key would be aesthetically sufficient for the remainder, hence breaking the polytonality. Played in its entirety, a mess.

I'll have to post more examples. I'm really looking for advice on this all around.

BTW-I would think that imitation would lend itself to this approach. Havent tried it yet.

Your thoughts?

Bill B
Posts: 1052
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:06 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by Bill B » Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:10 pm

It sounds like you are saying that if you follow what your ears tell you, one key wins out, and you no longer have polytonality.
My ears usually do the same for me. To me, it is an interesting concept, but not one I enjoy listening to for more than a couple bars, generally.
It was interesting enough to get me to look into the link in the first place, I was hoping increased understanding might help me apprieciate it more. I suppose I would do better to read than to post on a topic that Im not that into.
my final thought will be that even though it sounds cliche, the idea of music as a language is a really useful concept to me. When you are really fluent in a language, you generally follow your ears more than you work out a set of rules.
2013 Angel Benito Aguado
2005 Ramirez R-2

tony

Re: Bitonal Polytonal Rules

Post by tony » Fri Jan 25, 2013 7:04 pm

I appreciate your input, Bill.

For the record, I feel that I am indeed fluent in the musical language. Sometimes, I like to have rules as a resource esp. for very complex situations.

As a musician, I try to push myself to explore new territory (such as this topic) and to continue learning. The rules, in this case, would simply be a platform for me until I have made the necessary adjustments.

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