Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Titel:
On the sensations of tone as a physiological basis for the study of music. Translated with the author's sanction from the third German edition, with additional notes and an additional appendix by Alexander J. Ellis
Person:
Helmholtz, Hermann von
PURL:
https://digitalesammlungen.uni-weimar.de/viewer/image/lit3875/404/
380 
PERIOD OF HARMONIC MUSIC. 
Part III. 
modulation. What person that was ignorant of ecclesiastical 
modes could guess the tonic of the piece from this commencement? 
As such we find D at the end of the first strophe, and the sharpen¬ 
ing of G to Qff in the first chord also points to D. The principal 
melody too, which is given to the tenor, shews from the commence¬ 
ment that D is the tonic. But we do not get a minor chord of D 
till the eighth bar, whereas a modern composer would have been 
forced to introduce it in the first good place he could find in the 
first bar. 
We see from these characters how greatly the nature of the 
whole system of ecclesiastical modes differed from our modem 
keys. We cannot but assume that masters like Palestrina founded 
their method of harmonisation upon a correct feeling for the 
peculiar character of those modes, and that, as they could not fail 
to be acquainted with the contemporary advances in Protestant 
ecclesiastical music, their work was neither arbitrary nor un¬ 
skilful. 
What we miss in such examples as the one just adduced, is first, 
that the tonic chord does not play the same prominent part at the 
very commencement that is assigned to it in modern music. In 
the latter, the tonic chord has the same prominent and connecting 
significance among chords as the tonic or keynote among the tones 
of the scale. Next we miss altogether that feeling for the con¬ 
nection of consecutive chords which in modern times has led to 
the very general custom of giving them a common tone. This is 
evidently related to the fact that, as we shall see hereafter, it was not 
possible in the old ecclesiastical modes to produce chains of chords 
so closely connected with each other and with the tonic chord, as 
in the modern major and minor modes. 
Hence, although we recognise in Palestrina and G-abrieli a 
delicate artistic sensibility for the esthetic effect of separate chords 
of various kinds, and in so far. a certain independent significance 
in their harmonies, yet we see that the means of establishing an 
internal connection in the tissue of chords had still to be dis¬ 
covered. This problem, however, required a reduction and trans¬ 
formation of the previous scales, to our major and minor. On the 
other hand, this reduction sacrificed the great variety of expression 
which depended on diversity of scale. The old scales partly form 
transitions between major and minor, and partly enhance the
        

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