Jessica Rudman

Panel 3: Ugly Step-Sisters: A Scale-Theoretic Examination of the Greek Genera

Though few fragments of musical notation from Ancient Greece survive, contemporary descriptions and theoretical discussions agree that such music relied on three tetrachords—known as the diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic genera—from which scales were derived.  The diatonic genus includes a half-step followed by two whole-steps and is the foundation for the major/minor modal system upon which Western art and popular music has been based for centuries.  The chromatic (two semitones plus a minor third) and the enharmonic (two quarter-tones and a major third) also can be used to build seven-note scales, yet those collections fell out of favor after the time of the Ancient Greeks.  While the diatonic has been thoroughly covered in the theoretical literature, the collections built on the other genera have not received nearly as much attention.  My research attempts to rectify that situation by applying to the other two Greek genera criteria previously discussed in relation to the diatonic.  By examining the scales of all three Greek genera through a variety of approaches, I hope to stimulate renewed interest in the chromatic and enharmonic as both important historical artifacts and viable compositional resources.