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Why do they break the rules of harmony?

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    Why do they break the rules of harmony?

    This is a hymn from a Swedish chorale book from 1939. If you look at bar 5 and 6 you can spot what looks like wrong voice leading to me. We have E-Am. There is no voice going to the C note in the Am chord. We should have no C note if the rules of voice leading are to be followed. Why the C note then?

    Another mistake is the fifth between bass and tenor (A-E) in the LH in bar 5. I remember being taught to avoid this. What os going on?
    should we break rules when playing the organ?

    #2
    Some questions:
    1) How much harmony have you studied so far? And have you learned from books, classes or private instruction? Or other?
    2) In measure 5, I don't even see an A in the bass part. What are you referring to?

    Comment


      #3
      Bar 5-6, tenor and bass parts. The tenor minim E on bar 5, beat 3 moves down to Middle C on bar 6, beat 1. The bass crotchet E on beat 4 moves up to A on beat 1.
      Bar 5-6 soprano and alto part. The soprano B (bt 4) moves down to A (bt 1). The alto G# (bt 4) moves down to E (bt 1).

      So there is no problem here.

      There is no problem with the 5th between bass and tenor on beat 1 in bar 5 either. Can I point out the fundamental error here. Someone, maybe you (?), has mis-read those notes as being in the treble clef (A-E) and labelled the chord as Am. (Am/C would have been a better mis-identification!) Those notes are of course in the bass clef and are C-G. So that chord is in fact C major in its root inversion. What you were no doubt told to avoid were consecutive (AKA parallel) 5ths (and octaves)

      I see nothing wrong here. And remember that music does not have to follow the strict rules that you get taught. As one of my fellow teachers at one college says "You learn the rules and how to apply them. Once you have done that, then you can start to bend and break those rules, because you know what you are trying to do, it won't be through ignorance or by accident." If you're writing a chorale in the traditional manner, then yes, follow them. If it's something else, then feel free to experiment with the sound.
      Last edited by andyg; 06-11-2019, 11:34 AM.
      It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

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      Comment


        #4
        Thanks, andyg, for pointing out what I missed (the added notations). I was paying attention to the music, not the pencil scratches below it.

        But even then, whether it's an A-E or a C-G, what is the problem? It's a fifth. And it's not used incorrectly. Which leads me back to my first question, which will be helpful the next time help or clarification is requested - what is the starting point of henrik.hank's knowledge of theory and harmony? The people on this forum who are qualified to help the rest of us will be better able to help if they know where we stand. Are we absolute beginners, or do we have a specialized degree in the subject at hand? More likely, where do locate ourselves between those two extremes?

        I will add a new question to that: What is the original poster doing to further any knowledge of theory and harmony?

        Personally, because of having to explain augmented triads to a student recently, I've opened several of the harmony textbooks on my shelves to see what they have to say. As a result of this, I expect to include the occasional augmented triad in my improvisations over the next month, just to help my understanding of how to use them,
        **
        I also agree with the statement about knowing the rules, which can allow us to break the rules.

        Comment


          #5
          I have been taught that G# leads to A ie the leading yone must always resolve up to the tonic of the next chord and not to the fifth (E in this example).
          And then if have a note that conects both chords you should stay on it. So the E note can't move anywhere.
          the interval of a fifth is said to be very stable and only to be used in the begining or the end of a progression.
          Even if I put away the thinking "you must follow the rules" I tend to go towards these rules automatically.
          please help me understand what is wrong with my musical understanding.
          ok, I know adding a C note in the Am chord makes it fuller but I have to move away from the rules/guidlines I was taught.

          Comment


            #6
            Thank you, my questions remain unanswered.

            Comment


              #7
              I agree with the original poster that this is some strange part writing. It does break some of the rules that I was taught in college. But, like the other posters on this thread, I realize that these rules are not always followed. I have seen many examples of this in fifty years of organ playing.
              Mike

              My home organ is a circa 1990 Galanti Praeludium III, with Wicks/Viscount CM-100 module supplying extra voices. I also have an Allen MDS Theatre II (princess pedalboard!) with an MDS II MIDI Expander.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by henrik.hank View Post
                I have been taught that G# leads to A ie the leading yone must always resolve up to the tonic of the next chord and not to the fifth (E in this example).
                And then if have a note that conects both chords you should stay on it. So the E note can't move anywhere.
                the interval of a fifth is said to be very stable and only to be used in the begining or the end of a progression.
                It's quite true that the leading note should resolve upwards. However it is quite frequent that it falls a third at a cadence as here - it's very common in Bach's choral harmonisations (as I said in your last post): have a look at some. As for a note that is common to two chords, I don't know that as a rule, although it's often better to repeat the note in the interests of a smooth progression. Your ear should tell you you what is best and this cadence is fine.

                I don't actually think that this is a very good harmonisation. I don't like the fact that the first three phrases begin on a 1st inversion chord - quite weak to my way of thinking. Strictly speaking, the overlap in the lower parts at the end of bar 1 and the top parts at the beginning of the penultimate bar are incorrect although I find them perfectly acceptable. The large intervals between the lower parts in bars 8 & 11 are also "incorrect" strictly speaking.

                However, more importantly, I think that whoever harmonised the melody hadn't really decided whether it was modal or tonal: the melody doesn't really help as it's tonally ambiguous. It's effective, with an antique feel to it, but personally I would have set it basically in D minor with B flats (and some C sharps). I think the singers would have added them as musica ficta anyway. If it's intended to be in 16th century style I don't think it works: e.g. the last two chords of bar 2 seem out of place and, in context, ugly. I'm not keen on the 2nd chord of bar 7 or the 3rd of bar 8 (perhaps it's the doubled major third). The final cadence doesn't sound convincing to me either. Tallis's Psalm tunes for Parker's Psalter, published in 1567, give a better idea of contemporary harmony in my view.

                If henrik.hank can show me proof that the harmonisation, like the melody, is also 1551, then everything I've said is clearly rubbish!

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Peterboroughdiapason View Post
                  If henrik.hank can show me proof that the harmonisation, like the melody, is also 1551, then everything I've said is clearly rubbish!
                  I wouldn't go as far as to call your opinions rubbish. I quite agree actually. D minor 'works'. But I am only admitting that because you went first. It would never ocurr to me to complain about a published work that passed whatever peer review this one must have done to be worthy of engraving plates for future posterity. I am acutely aware of the fact that the harmonization is filtered through an entirely different musical muslim cloth than the Western European one that guided Bach! Up there in fjord country they definitely hear things differently. The 'shape note' musical community of Appalachian America went their own way in harmonizing tunes that the rest of the country would treat in a more traditionally European fashion. They published their tunes as well. I haven't played the Swedish tune but I 'hear' it in D Minor. I don't like or dislike what has actually been published. I have no right to judge it. I treat it as I would treat some familiar tune as harmonized by a 'shape note' arranger. Different. Maybe even something that would in time 'grow on me'.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by henrik.hank View Post
                    Even if I put away the thinking "you must follow the rules" I tend to go towards these rules automatically.
                    please help me understand what is wrong with my musical understanding.
                    There is nothing necessarily wrong with your musical understanding. If the rules are helpful to you then follow them. That is why they are there. But understand that published manuscripts do get some scrutiny before they are engraved. The editors also know the rules. IF you see a rule broken then see what you can learn from it. Rather than say "ooh, thats wrong, s/he broke the rules" I would instead say "hmmm, I wonder why s/he did that". So if you are not ready to break any rules yet, that is not a problem. But from other comments that were made it might be the case that no rules were broken? Was it an error in chord naming? I also have to point out that in the United States we have several Protestant Denominations that use hymn tunes with the same origin (Europe) but harmonized differently. Very few are harmonized the way Bach harmonized the 389 Chorale Tunes. They would not then be singable by a modern American congregation! Most Americans cannot sing their way out of a paper bag. A wet paper bag! Maybe in a Psalter for congregational singing a harmonization that is somewhat more accessible for average attainment singers might be chosen over one that is more 'correct' as to the voice leading but harder to sing by an untrained person?

                    Comment


                    • m&m's
                      m&m's commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Those are some good comments. My background is in nonliturgical, more gospel-oriented churches, but i have some books of organ music that are harmonizations of chorale "tunes",and some of those are rather "ear-bending", to say the least.

                    #11
                    Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
                    ...the harmonization is filtered through an entirely different musical muslim cloth than the Western European one that guided Bach!
                    Do you mean muslin cloth?

                    Comment


                      #12
                      Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
                      I wouldn't go as far as to call your opinions rubbish. I quite agree actually. D minor 'works'. But I am only admitting that because you went first. It would never ocurr to me to complain about a published work that passed whatever peer review this one must have done to be worthy of engraving plates for future posterity. I am acutely aware of the fact that the harmonization is filtered through an entirely different musical muslim cloth than the Western European one that guided Bach! Up there in fjord country they definitely hear things differently. The 'shape note' musical community of Appalachian America went their own way in harmonizing tunes that the rest of the country would treat in a more traditionally European fashion. They published their tunes as well. I haven't played the Swedish tune but I 'hear' it in D Minor. I don't like or dislike what has actually been published. I have no right to judge it. I treat it as I would treat some familiar tune as harmonized by a 'shape note' arranger. Different. Maybe even something that would in time 'grow on me'.
                      Thanks - I think!

                      In 1551, when this tune was apparently written, or at least first published, Sweden was already Lutheran. Olaus Petri, who had studied in Wittenberg with Martin Luther produced a hymnbook in 1526 and I imagine it was similar to what was written in Germany. In addition a revision of the Genevan Psalter, which was so influential, was printed in 1551. (I write this after rigorous and meticulous research - i.e. I looked up the internet!). I imagine that classical musicians in Sweden did not have any particularly Swedish musical style at that time, so I don't think this harmonization is traditionally "Swedish".

                      As for not criticizing any music because it was printed - my experience tells me that not all music is equal and I don't feel inhibited from saying so. I agree, though, that some of the stuff you find on the internet is illiterate nonsense whereas you can expect printed music to be at least competent.

                      The harmonization on this hymn is not incompetent or incorrect - it's just that I would have done it differently - but, for all I know, perhaps less authentically. I would be interested in knowing when the harmonization was done. As I said, it doesn't seem to me to be stylistically consistent - not that I'm in any way an expert on the subject, especially not so many years after any serious study!


                      Comment


                        #13
                        The music came first,then the analysts and academicians came up with "RULES" to be followed.If every composer and writer adhered to all the "RULES",there`d be nothing but regurgitated 300 yr old music being played today.

                        Comment


                          #14
                          Originally posted by skydawg View Post
                          The music came first,then the analysts and academicians came up with "RULES" to be followed.If every composer and writer adhered to all the "RULES",there`d be nothing but regurgitated 300 yr old music being played today.
                          The conventions were developed from experience of what worked and were formulated to give guidance for composers learning their craft – “rules”, if you like. However all the great composers learnt to compose by studying the music of others rather than just ‘following rules’.

                          If you want to compose in a particular style you need to follow the conventions of the style. For example, if you want to harmonize a hymn tune with standard classical harmony you need to avoid parallel octaves and fifths and make sure that discords are treated correctly. You also need to know, for example, what makes strong chord progressions. By and large the same conventions were followed throughout the Baroque, Classical and early Romantic periods. But, of course, as music became more chromatic and freer the conventions changed.

                          Rules have become less and less relevant to contemporary music and contemporary composers are free to write what they want, of course – and do! What matters is that it’s effective as music and that the style is consistent.

                          Comment


                          • regeron
                            regeron commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Good points. It makes me wonder - Is it a fine line that separates rules from conventions?

                            I accompany a number of young singers who sing pop and musical theater repertoire. There are many instances of the 'traditional' rules of harmony being broken, yet at some level, these pieces share harmonic conventions of their own, as well as conventions of keyboard voicing and arranging. These conventions give the music a certain sound, so they resemble rules in that respect.

                            And rules do change (or are these the conventions?) A couple examples would be the increased use of 6-4 chords and 7th chords as time went on.

                          • myorgan
                            myorgan commented
                            Editing a comment
                            In addition, there are also rules regarding the writing of open vs. close harmony, and the transitions between them, as well as harmonic progressions. That said, however, when I learned the "rules," I lost my creativity in the process. I understand both points of view.

                            The question is whether the "new" exceptions to the rules will end up being included as part of the future theory conventions, or if they will remain exceptions until the current generation passes. I suspect those who engage in such writing will be regarded similar to how we currently view John Cage, or perhaps Philip Glass as a minimalist or abstract composer.

                            Who's to say new compositional devices will not become part of standard rules or conventions?

                            Michael

                          • tbeck
                            tbeck commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Michael,

                            I'm curious as to how you think we currently John Cage or Philip Glass. Surely they compose in completely different styles. How would you classify Philip Glass vis-a-vis John Adams?

                            Are any of John Cage's, or any other modern or avant-garde composer's techniques considered standard?
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