Philippe Gantchoula/Hugues Seress

Tonal Orientation Units and Polarized Neo-Riemannian Tonnetz: Two Didactic Tools for Extended Tonality

Analysis teaching in French music schools is still today heavily influenced by the theory of fundamental bass and the 19th century’s classifications of harmony. However this legacy, resulting from successive stacked uses, has been called into question for some two decades, particularly – although not only – in the study of extended tonality. These questionings may concern the concepts of chord and tonality, as well as these of degree and tonal function. They generate new theoretical approaches which are disputing the validity of traditional models based on the only triad and the intervallic distance calculation between this triad and the even more pre-accessed tonic degree. These new visions explore new fields like voice leading, the links between degree and function, the concept of harmonic progression. This way, they may lead to the extension of tonality, as well as the development of advanced procedures and tools appropriate to its description.

This lecture is proposing an exploration of two fundamental aspects and an application to the music by Gabriel Fauré. First, we focus on defining the tools of tonal identification, as well as the mechanisms which could allow this identification. Then, the first part aims to reach functional and tonal analysis of the work in small or medium scale. Secondly, we widen the scale of observation to demonstrate that the study of the relationship between tonal distance and tonal direction may shed light on the meaning of tonal structure as a significant discursive component. The second part aims to define and model the path of tonalities of a complete work or movement.