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"church" Modes

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#19 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 05:23 AM

Makes for a pretty good introduction as to me, Chuck!

It might be added that "hearing" a certain mode can be supported by figuring the sound of the related chords, say the significant alternation of minor tonic (I) and major subdominant (IV) for recognizing the Dorian mode, and just the other way round of major tonic (I) and minor dominant (V) for the Mixolydian mode (for instance for D Dorian D minor and G major, and for G Mixolydian G major and D minor).

The major and minor chords as referred to are basically triads made of a

1) major: a major third (4 semitones) and then a minor third (3 semitones)
2) minor: a minor third (3 semitones) and then a major third (4 semitones)

With their sounds in mind the manoeuver as described above can be performed.

Example for "hearing" Dorian: "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" (from "Scarborough Fair")

Example for "hearing" Mixolydian: bar 5-6 (resp. 9-10, repeats included) of "my" Apley House"

 

(the latter initially being recorded just for that pupose)

Hope that helps...

 

(edited to add the examples)


Edited by blue eyed sailor, 21 February 2014 - 10:48 AM.


#20 Jack Campin

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 10:25 AM

it is that pattern of whole and half steps along with lots of conventional melodic patterns that give pieces the "modal" sound

 

The body of "conventional melodic patterns" is once of the things I want to add to my tutorial, but it's not an easy subject to get started on.  In mediaeval chant there were only a few tunes to classify and a few conventional patterns were identified (mostly not found now in Western folk music).  In Middle Eastern music the modes are mostly made up of conventional patterns with the scale being rather secondary, and sometimes (as in the Iranian "radif") the list of patterns built up to encyclopaedic size and any practicing musician is expected to know them all explicitly.  The only simply presented but thorough list of such patterns I've seen that sticks to the Western scale is for Maltese folk guitar improvisation.

 

Mining these patterns out of the tune corpus of Scottish trad (or any other tradition from Western Europe) is a huge task.  They're in there, and they're used all the time instinctively, but practicing musicians don't identify or name them.  Does anybody know what research has been done in this area already?  I don't want to reinvent wheels.



#21 Mike Franch

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 11:32 AM

Wolf has started a Playford-Apley House thread, so I'll put my comment to that thread.



#22 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 11:56 AM

Wow! So much to be said about something so simple!

 

My only contact with modes is in my native Irish music. As a child, I was singing modal songs without realising that it wasn't just a matter of major and minor keys, and it was only when I started playing instruments that obliged me to look for accompanying chords that I realised there was a systematic difference between the modes. This realisation helped me in a very practical way by simplifying the search for chords to accompany a tune.

 

I wouldn't know about "Church" modes - I'm a Calvinist, and most of the Scottish Psalm tunes are pretty "straightforward" European major or minor tunes. On the contrary, I know of modes from traditional songs and dance tunes, and an Irish fiddle book dating from the early 20th century refers to the modes in Irish music as "the scale of re" or "the scale of so", etc.

The implication of this is that everything is based on the diatonic "doh, re, mi ..." scale, with each mode having a different note as its tonic. Thus each modal scale has the semitone intervals in different positions in the scale, and therefore has a different "feel" to it.

 

While I was still a child with singing as my only musical activity, I saw modal tunes differently: they were the ones where you dropped a whole tone rather than a semitone below the tonic. To this day, I sing "She moved through the fair" as a "normal", major-key song with a flatted 7th, whereas on the Anglo concertina, I play it along the C row, but home in tonically on G.

So a mode for me is both a "doh, re, mi" scale with a tonic other than doh, or a "doh, re, mi" scale with one or more flatted notes. 

 

And for each mode, I have a selection of basic chords that fit in standard situations, like the "I-IV-V7" for major-scale tunes. So being able to identify and name the mode that I hear helps me to harmonise it in a very practical way. I don't see these as prescriptive rules, but rather as descriptive schemes that underpin my personal experience.

 

Cheers,

John



#23 Don Taylor

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 08:43 PM

If you are playing a piece in a pentatonic (or a hexatonic) scale then does that mean that you should avoid chords that include notes that are not in that scale?



#24 David Barnert

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 11:31 PM

If you are playing a piece in a pentatonic (or a hexatonic) scale then does that mean that you should avoid chords that include notes that are not in that scale?

 

Some might insist on that, but it's awfully limiting. Think of "Star of the County Down" in A minor. No F's (and only one B, unnecessary near the end). But who wouldn't play an F chord on the 2nd measure?



#25 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 03:12 AM

If you are playing a piece in a pentatonic (or a hexatonic) scale then does that mean that you should avoid chords that include notes that are not in that scale?

 
IMO it's rather the other way round: the "gap" (als Jack calls it) leaves it to your choice to (ordinarily consistently) narrow down the amiguity to just one of the six traditional "church" modes.

OTOH, one of the choices at hand would of cause (and as with any tune regardless of its scale being completed to seven notes or not) be to willingly avoid some chords for a certain intended mood). In the case of penta- or hexatonic scales it would be likely to limit one's accompaniment to the "material" to ne drawn from the current scale then.
 
And as to "Star of the County Down" I second David's remark regarding the pretty intruding F (thus choosing Aeolian/natural minor, in the key of A in this case). In fact, when I just play the tune as sort of a dance I engage the F as a passing note anyway.
 
One alternative would "theoretically" be Dorian (with F# instead), which never occurred to me for this tune though - instead of the F major triad there would appear a D major triad then at times, which otherwise might function as a passing secondary dominant (as related to Cmaj, the parallel major key to Amin, the then determined key of the tune) in the B-part (which actually would be recognized as in Cmaj then); Dmaj7 as leading to Gmaj at that point.

Anyway, I wouldn't need neither Dmaj (of the Dorian logic) nor Dmaj7 (as "guiding" secondary dominant when retaining the tune in natural minor) here.

Edited by blue eyed sailor, 22 February 2014 - 05:57 PM.


#26 JimLucas

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 04:10 PM

If you are playing a piece in a pentatonic (or a hexatonic) scale then does that mean that you should avoid chords that include notes that are not in that scale?


Some might insist on that, but it's awfully limiting. Think of "Star of the County Down" in A minor. No F's (and only one B, unnecessary near the end). But who wouldn't play an F chord on the 2nd measure?

Well, I wouldn't do it all the time.  I like holding Am through both of the first two measures much of the time, with the F in the second measure as an occasional "sweetener".
 
But what about Amazing Grace?  The melody is restricted to the C-D-F-G-A pentatonic scale (or "pitch set", as Jack terms it), with no third (E or Eb) or seventh (B or Bb), but I don't believe I've ever heard it harmonized without the use of both Bb and E-natural... or in terms of chords, Bb and C, or even C7.  (The "harmony" of drones would be an exception.)  So it seems to me that instead of the melody defining a "pentatonic mode", it could be considered to be a piece that suggests a full 7-note diatonic scale but which just happens not to use two of those notes in the melody itself.
 
Another example might be the song Streets of Laredo. A common (the most common?) version of the melody uses six tones of the diatonic scale, leaving out the sixth degree.  But I've also heard it sung where the seventh of the scale in the "fuller" version is replaced by either the tonic or the second (in different places in the song).  That would seem to convert it from some sort of "hexatonic" scale to some sort of "pentatonic" scale.  But nice harmonies that use one, both, or neither of the sixth and seventh degrees of the scale can be set against either version of the tune.  So how should it be classified?  I, for one, don't really care.  I'll harmonize it differently at different times, depending on my mood of the moment.



#27 Jack Campin

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 07:15 PM

There is no "just happens" with gapped scale tunes in European traditional idioms.  The gaps almost always occur in the same places, and can be maintained through very long melodies.  It's not like whoever thought the tune up just missed a pitch or two by sheer fluke or absentmindedness.

 

There may or may not be harmonic implications.  Sometimes it does make sense to think of the tune as Jim does with Amazing Grace, as moving within a larger pitch set which determines the harmony.  It would still sound melodically weird to fill in the gaps - the melody has its own logic (built largely out of stereotypical phrases which are not determined by any pre-existing harmonic sequence).

 

Historically, the church mode system arose for practical reasons which had nothing to do with harmony: you could get a choir better in tune if you stuck to the same mode throughout a liturgy, so it was a good idea to have a classification that told you which chant melodies shared a mode.  This idea is still used in Turkish classical music, where you will often find a concert advertised in advance as containing only pieces in a certain mode - and they'll stick to it for two or three hours.  A Western folkie is likely to want to use the modal system for exactly the opposite purpose - to get as much modal variety as possible.  And knowing where the gaps are is a help in telling you what you can get away with, particularly if your group includes recalcitrantly diatonic instruments.  The fact that you can do all three parts of Apley House on a single-row G melodeon (despite the second part being major-ish and centred on D) can make a practical difference.



#28 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 23 February 2014 - 04:16 AM

There may or may not be harmonic implications. Sometimes it does make sense to think of the tune as Jim does with Amazing Grace, as moving within a larger pitch set which determines the harmony. It would still sound melodically weird to fill in the gaps - the melody has its own logic (built largely out of stereotypical phrases which are not determined by any pre-existing harmonic sequence).

I doubt that in a way. You hear quite often not only the passing tone of F with Star of the County Down, but as well the Bb with Amazing Grace - which has the fundamental of F according to Jim's discussing it, which means it would otherwise be lacking not just the seventh (E or Eb) but in addition to that the fourth (Bb, or - of the Lydian mode - B natural).
 
We seem to be quite used to completing the scale, at least to the Hexatonic, just leaving the ambiguity of major / Mixolydian. Barbara Allen in my recording as well as in Stuart's closes the gap from 5 to 6 pitches (adding a fourth) not earlier than at the very end, but it does. Put another way: Of the major-triad modes only the Lydian seems to sound unfamiliar to us (at least in melodic terms)...

Edited by blue eyed sailor, 28 February 2014 - 05:18 AM.


#29 cboody

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 01:26 AM

 

it is that pattern of whole and half steps along with lots of conventional melodic patterns that give pieces the "modal" sound

 

The body of "conventional melodic patterns" is once of the things I want to add to my tutorial, but it's not an easy subject to get started on.  In mediaeval chant there were only a few tunes to classify and a few conventional patterns were identified (mostly not found now in Western folk music).  In Middle Eastern music the modes are mostly made up of conventional patterns with the scale being rather secondary, and sometimes (as in the Iranian "radif") the list of patterns built up to encyclopaedic size and any practicing musician is expected to know them all explicitly.  The only simply presented but thorough list of such patterns I've seen that sticks to the Western scale is for Maltese folk guitar improvisation.

 

Mining these patterns out of the tune corpus of Scottish trad (or any other tradition from Western Europe) is a huge task.  They're in there, and they're used all the time instinctively, but practicing musicians don't identify or name them.  Does anybody know what research has been done in this area already?  I don't want to reinvent wheels.

 

I don't know of any sources, but would very much like to.  Please keep us informed, Jack, if you find anything or start to develop your own set of patterns.  I'd be happy to chime in, but I can't find the time to do a proper job.



#30 David Barnert

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Posted 24 February 2014 - 08:35 AM

A year ago I told a story here about a tune that was written for a fiddler with an injured middle finger. The tune doesn't use the notes that are played with that finger on any of the four strings. I didn't use the word "mode," but clearly this is a unique kind of mode.



#31 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 09:39 AM

(I choose to expand my last post rather than to add another one)



#32 Terry McGee

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 12:22 AM

Breandán Breathnach includes some comments on modes in Irish music in the preface of his Ceol Rince na hÉireann (Vol. 1).  I've put a copy of his own translation of the preface at: http://www.mcgee-flu.../ceolrince1.htm.

 

Interesting that he reports four modes only - ionian (major), mixolydian, dorian and aeolian.  I'm sure I remember a talk by a youthful Michael O'Suilleabhain where he played examples of some unusual tunes in other modes.  Too bad I didn't write them down!

 

Terry



#33 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 03:53 PM

Breandán Breathnach includes some comments on modes in Irish music in the preface of his Ceol Rince na hÉireann (Vol. 1).  I've put a copy of his own translation of the preface at: http://www.mcgee-flu.../ceolrince1.htm.

 

Interesting that he reports four modes only - ionian (major), mixolydian, dorian and aeolian.  I'm sure I remember a talk by a youthful Michael O'Suilleabhain where he played examples of some unusual tunes in other modes.  Too bad I didn't write them down!

 

Terry

 

Breandán Breathnach includes some comments on modes in Irish music in the preface of his Ceol Rince na hÉireann (Vol. 1).  I've put a copy of his own translation of the preface at: http://www.mcgee-flu.../ceolrince1.htm.

 

Terry,

 

At one point, in square brackets, you say:

"[For some reason, Breandán has avoided using the mediaeval names we usually associate with the modes.  I'll add them in square brackets in the tables below.]"

 

Just as a matter of interest, why do you consider it inexplicable to avoid using mediaeval names for the modes? I'd have thought it would be the other way round - one should have to explicitly rationalise the use of "Dorian" and "Mixoladian" as applied to Irish dance music!

 

The Church did not invent the modes. It certainly did not invent the diatonic scale, and the scales of re, so and la are pretty obvious derivates of the diatonic scale that would occur to anyone trying to get variety of tonality on a diatonic instrument, e.g. an early harp or 6-hole flute.

 

And though the Church may have given its own names to the (already existing) modes, this would never have been prescriptive for popular and dance musicians, whose music was definitely beyond the clerical pale in the middle ages. 

 

BTW, the fiddler in my group has a book of Irish fiddle tunes dating from the early 20th century, in which the modes are also designated as the "scales of re, so and la".

 

And anyway, you wouldn't expect an Irishman, with his long history of opposition against foreign determination, to even suggest that his musicality had Greek or Latin roots, would you? Especially when it's not even factually correct!

 

Cheers,

John



#34 Terry McGee

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 06:44 PM

Not necessarily "inexplicable" - Breandán presumably had his reasons - it's just that they are not clear to me.  I wish I'd thought to ask, but he passed me the translation just as I left, and so the opportunity was lost.  Perhaps someone else knows?  

 

Church/Greek/Mediaeval names are routinely used by musicologists when discussing musical structure, which is what he's doing in this part of the Preface.  They are also used (in abbreviation, eg Ador) in the K parameter of our ABC notation, eg:

 

X:194
T:Ivy Leaf, The
R:reel
S:Serge Grando
H:2 other versions: #190. Version in Emix: #696
Z:id:hn-reel-194
M:C|
K:Amix
"A" ~A3e cAec|"" Ae~e2 "G" dBGB|"A" A2ed "G"(3Bcd ed|"Em" BGEF "" GA (3BAG|
"A" ~A3e ce~e2|"" Ae~e2 "G" dBGB|"A" A2ed "G" (3Bcd ed|"Em"BGEF GA (3Bcd||
"A"~e3f ed (3Bcd|"G"edge dG (3Bcd|"A" eaag (3efg d=c|"Em"BGEF ""GA (3Bcd|
"A"~e3f ed (3Bcd|"Em"e2ge "G"dBGB|"A"~A3B "C" =cBcd|"Em"~e3f "G"gedB||
 
As I understand it, the correct mode name is important in ABC format to get the key signature correct.
 
I certainly remember Michael O'Suilleabhain (also in 1974) using the Church names, and I don't remember anyone else ever using the solfège names.  They incidentally also derive from the Latin and were formalised in the mediaeval, so that should make them equally unattractive.  Breandán was a churchgoer, I believe.  I do remember him using the expression "tunes in good Christian keys", which I took to mean tunes not including those in A.
 
Does your fiddle-player's tunebook make it clear that they are talking modes and not keys? Our modes are four: do, re, so and la; "scales of re, so and la" could just mean the key signatures of D, G and A?
 
I agree the musicians from whom Breandán collected the tunes were unlikely to be using the mode names - "Paddy, give us a blast of that hyperlydian tune you have in quadruple time.  You know, the one that comes after the duple time tune in E phrygian!"   But I would have thought them equally unlikely to use the solfège.  Major or Minor if you're lucky.
 
Hmmm, maybe you're right to use the word "inexplicable".  Can someone explic it for us?
 
Terry


#35 Jack Campin

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 07:13 PM

In fact the church DID invent the modes, at least as a conscious system of classification: they had a bunch of psalm tunes and wanted to get them performed better, so they rolled their own system to organize them, inspired by Greek and maybe Arabic thinking.  (Usually they didn't use pseudo-Greek names, but called them "Modus I" ... "Modus VIII" together with "Modus Peregrinus" - you will not find many folkies knowing what "Modus III" is).  But the system was applied to entirely different purposes over the subsequent centuries.  The person who first thought of applying the late-Renaissance version of that system to folk music was Lucy Broadwood, and ultimately Breathnach's system derives from hers.

 

Bartok used it too, but he went in for more empirical detail.  In his transcriptions (and those of people following in his footsteps) the "church" mode name is an informal commentary if it appears at all; the real mode of the tune is given by the list of notes that it it uses which is presented at the start of each transcription.  This is pretty different from the way any practicing musician in a modal tradition would think, but it's uniform, accurate, and fits in well with Bartok's ambition to be a phonograph on paper.  John Moulden's edition of the Sam Henry songs uses some of those ideas, if I remember it right.



#36 Terry McGee

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 08:06 PM

I think it's probably the case that the modes have always been with us and always will - that they are a natural reality, and that only modern western art music has any problem with them.  We know they were used in ancient Greek times, in mediaeval times, in ITM and Irish, English, Scottish, American and Australian folk song.  I was surprised recently to find they pop up perfectly commonly in modern popular music, and probably in all sorts of other musics too.

 

Some sort of major divergence seems to have happened when western art music branched off into melodic and harmonic minors, neither of which are reflected in the minorly sounding old modes.  I wonder if there are any trad tunes or songs in harmonic or melodic minors?

 

I do remember a great quote from Cecil Sharp's days of presenting his collected versions of songs in a parlour setting.  Someone commented to the effect: "are you trying to tell us that your common country folk singers can sing in the modes when our best opera singers can't?"

 

Ignorance IS bliss!

 

Terry





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