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  • rbedwell3

Notation as a means to convey meaning II: Simultaneous Modulations

Continuing on from the previous post which covered the implied meanings of accidentals when reading scores, and which if you haven’t read as yet I suggest you do before continuing on with this post, I shall now move on to the more advanced topic of reading multiple accidentals as they occur in sheet music.

When an accidental appears in notation, the altered note implies a change in the music’s direction, a sense of tension is established, leading to a new chord, key or cadence where the resolution occurs or continues to build in tension. Everyone is familiar with, say a sharpened fourth appearing in a piece implying the shift to the key a fifth above or the chord, ie in C Major: F# implying the key or chord of G Major.

Now, the simultaneous part comes from two or more accidentals appearing at once. Take a look at the following example:

In this example, which comes from the passagio of lute suite no 1 BWV 996 by J. S. Bach, the two accidentals of D# and F# appear simultaneously. This signifies the following:

1) A change to G Major from the previous section in C Major and simultaneously the change to the relative minor of E minor. Or:

2) A change to E Neapolitan minor followed by the E Harmonic minor.

3) Two modes used explicitly, F# Lydian and G# Alt bb7 or D# Alt bb37 and F# Locrian natural 6.

4) The use of the E Harmonic minor scale.

5) The chord of B7 appearing (in this case in third inversion).

6) The highly likely appearance of a perfect cadence resolving to E Aeolian (natural minor), or one of its modes, which does in fact occur.

The two possible routes from C Major to E Harmonic minor are 1) C Major – G Major – E Harmonic minor or 2) C Major – E Neapolitan minor – E Harmonic minor. I personally prefer to use the route that avoids the use of the Major scale modulation as I find it too familiar and the sound is too predictable, although maybe I do use it 10% of the time for variation.

Returning to the example for a moment, I have left a couple more notes highlighted to show the meaning of the accidentals. From the B7 chord, the change is resolved via the Harmonic minor then returns back to the Aeolian mode (or E natural minor) but then the C# in the second bar is from D Major, again a third inversion A7 which instead of resolving to D Major, the D# indicates the change to E Melodic via the D being raised to D#. The E minor 1st inversion to A7 3rd inversion is a nice touch, he keeps the G note of the chord in the bass for both of them, something he does over much longer periods in other pieces, in a pedal tone frenzy with dominant modes from various scales being referenced as he changes, but more on that in the next post. Thanks for reading.

PS: That isn't really Bach in the picture, that would be silly. Its Telemann.


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