Alteration |
Music Terms

Alteration |

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terms and concepts

from the late alteratio – change

1) Raising or lowering the degree of the main scale without changing its name. Accidentals: (sharp, rising by a semitone), (flat, falling by a semitone), (double-sharp, rising by a tone), (double-flat, falling by a tone). Signs of triple increase and decrease are not used (an exception is in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh, number 220).

Accidentals at the beginning of a musical line with a key (key) are valid in all octaves until they change. Accidentals before a note (random) are only valid in one octave within a given bar. Refusal of alteration is indicated by the sign (bekar).

Initially, the concept of alteration arose in connection with the dual outline of the sound B, which was already encountered in the 10th century. A round sign denoted a lower note (or “soft”, French -mol, hence the term flat); rectangular – higher (“square”, French. sarry, hence the becar); the sign for a long time (until the end of the 17th century) was an equivalent version of the bekar.

At the turn of the 17-18 centuries. random and began to act until the end of the bar (previously they remained valid only when the same note was repeated), double accidentals were introduced. In modern music, due to the tendency towards chromatization of the tonal system, the setting of key accidentals often loses its meaning (they have to be canceled immediately). In dodecaphone music, accidentals are usually placed before each altered note (with the exception of those repeated within a measure); double signs are not used.

2) In the doctrine of harmony, alteration is usually understood as a chromatic modification of the main unstable steps of the scale, sharpening their attraction to stable ones (to the sounds of tonic triad). For example, in C major:

Alteration |

Chords containing chromatically modified sounds are called altered. The most important of them form 3 groups. The basis of each of them is an increased sixth, which is located a semitone above one of the sounds of the tonic triad. Table of altered chords (according to I.V. Sposobin):

Alteration |

In another interpretation, alteration generally means any chromatic modification of a diatonic chord, regardless of whether the chromatic move is directed to the tonic sounds or not (X. Riemann, G. Schenker, A. Schoenberg, G. Erpf). For example, in C-dur, ce-ges is an alteration of the XNUMXst degree triad, a-cis-e is the XNUMXth degree triad.

3) In mensural notation, alteration is the doubling of the second of two equal note durations (for example, the second of two semibrevises) when converting a two-part meter into a three-part one; | Alteration | | in double meter (in modern rhythmic notation) turn into | Alteration | | in tripartite.

References: Tyulin Yu., Teaching about harmony, part I, L., 1937, M., 1966; Aerova F., Ladova alteration, K., 1962; Berkov V., Harmony, part 2, M., 1964, (all 3 parts in one volume) M., 1970; Sposobin I., Lectures on the course of harmony, M., 1968; Schenker H., Neue musikalische Theorien und Phantasien…, Bd 1, B.-Stuttg., 1906; Schönberg A., Harmonlelehre, Lpz.-W., 1911, W., 1949; Riemann H., Handbuch der Harmonie- und Modulationslehre, Lpz., 1913; Kurth E., Romantische Harmonik und ihre Krise in Wagners “Tristan”, Bern, 1920; Erpf H., Studien zur Harmonie- und Klangtechnik der neueren Musik, Lpz., 1927.

Yu. N. Kholopov

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