Dimitar Ninov

The Diatonic-Chromatic Platform of the Major-Minor System

This essay will compare a pure diatonic system with various chromatic systems and will trace the formation of tonality in the common practice period as chromatic expansion of modality. Tonality in the twentieth century is often expanded through modal interaction (mixture), chromatic mediant relationship, and fully chromatic chord operation. The author suggests a different path: the focus here will be placed on the potential of certain artificial modes to expand tonality.

It is true that the harmonic and melodic major and minor scales are obtained through modal interaction of chords, either by borrowing from the opposite diatonic mode (i.e. minor iv in a major mode) or by adding genuine chromatic chords which do not exist in the pure diatonic system (i.e. an augmented triad). However, these altered chords are derived from superimposed major and minor thirds as parts of the scales, which suggests the arbitrary term ‘conditional diatonic’. A higher level of chromaticism is obtained by the addition of typical altered chords which contain diminished or (more rarely) augmented thirds. It is possible to justify their existence within the so-called double harmonic major and minor scales. Therefore, the main idea suggested in this essay is that the basic platform of the major minor-system is created from the intrinsic combination of natural major and minor and their harmonic and melodic versions, while the double harmonic scales are regarded as a further expansion of this platform.