Whole-Tone as Extension of Tonal Harmony in the Music of Debussy: An Underestimated Technique of Conjunction

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Type of Resource:
Buch, Text
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<p>Claude Debussy employed the whole-tone scale in his music of various genres throughout his life. His most typical application of the scale was in the alternation between passages of whole-tone music and passages of modal, tonal, expanded tonal or chromatic music. Although several theoretical investigations have been concerned with the relationships between whole-tone constructions and these other harmony types, they have focused primarily on common pitch content. They seldom consider the instances in which harmonies within whole-tone passages actually function tonally to conjoin passages of the various types of pitch collections. The present paper serves to examine the diverse ways in which Debussy drew upon the possible tonal and tonality-defining characteristics of whole-tone harmonies in order to make transitions to and from the passages that surround them. The simplest tonally functional chord that Debussy expands via the whole-tone scale is the augmented triad and its tertian extensions. Whole-tone harmony passages ending with French augmented sixth chords that resolve functionally are also characteristic. Still, other linear connections are traced in other compositions. Examples of 13 whole-tone passages in Debussy's works are studied in context. The songs "De grève" and "Placet futile" are examined in detail.</p>
Data collection:
JSTOR Arts & Sciences XV Archive
JSTOR Music Archive