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date: 25 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter introduces a novel explanatory model for the tonal grammar of music from the thoroughbass era, encompassing baroque and galant practices. The framework models the internalized knowledge of a skilled continuo player improvising at the keyboard prior to Rameau’s invention of the fundamental-bass concept. It makes predictions about the tonal tendency of a chord based on the interaction of its constituent scale-degrees. The framework models something like Schenker’s “will of the tones,” predicting whether individual tones in a chord will tend to “feel” stabilized or mobilized. Stabilized tones tend to remain in place, and mobilized tones tend to move by step. These tendencies are regulated by the intervallic relations among notes in a chord, and can be expressed as two simple laws: a Law of Counterpoint that applies to generic pitch-class intervals regardless of which specific scale degrees they span, and a Law of Harmony that makes scale-degree-specific predictions.

Keywords: tonality, harmony, counterpoint, chord, root, harmonic function, corpus analysis, baroque music, galant music

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