Ildar Khannanov

The Principles of Harmony from both Philosophical and Technical Standpoints

The question of the structural principle of harmony has been pondered throughout the 25 centuries of development of Western music theory. The overwhelming diversity of approaches resists categorization and, perhaps, makes it futile to search for a single governing principle for all music. Yet, from the bird’s view, one can notice a major discrepancy in its interpretation: on the one hand, there is a lofty philosophical idea that comes from Pythagorean mystical numerology; on the other, a very reasonable practical idea of the technique of connecting chords in a certain way, i.e., voice leading. Many theorists allowed for a leap of faith between the philosophical concept and its practical application. Fétis’s reaction to Rameau, Schenker’s reaction to Riemann and Kholopov’s reaction to Schenker may very well be the attempts to overcome a striking disconnect between the two aspects that in an ideal situation have to complement each other.

How does the idea of melodic-modal platform of chromatic tonality play out on the background of Herakleitian reconciliation of the irreconcilables? What is the relationship of the ascending fifth motion on the voice-leading graph with the idea of music as realized number? Does Kholopov’s idea of the central element as tonic hold true for both ancient Greek and 18th-century understandings of harmony?
This paper will summarize the ideas on the structural principle of harmony presented in this session and will open the floor for the further discussion of this issue.