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#1243082 - 08/04/09 02:21 AM Confused about modes vs. harmony  
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pianovirus Offline
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Musical modes (e.g. Phrygian, Lydian etc.) seem to play a major role in jazz and pop music (some pop guitarists seem to think primarily in these terms). According to Wiki, modality also features prominently in late-19th and 20th century music, including Debussy and other composers.

1.) Could someone give examples of such passages?
2.) How does the use of modes work together with the use of ("traditional") harmony? I guess I can't just think in classical cadence style C-F-G-C and add any kind of scale which contains material that is non proper to the key?
In other words, how would one usually harmonize modal passages?


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#1243235 - 08/04/09 11:05 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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Thanks for asking this. I am curious as to the answer myself, being only a dilettante composer. grin


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
#1243246 - 08/04/09 11:22 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Originally Posted by Horowitzian
being only a dilettante composer. grin


Then there are actually two dilettante composers active in this thread by now! laugh

#1243249 - 08/04/09 11:24 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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1] Debussy's La Cathedrale engloutie (main theme) is a really great example of Ionian - the melodic aspect really stands out even though there is parallel harmonic doubling.

2] Again see Debussy for how he "harmonizes" modal passages. The harmony is not functional, and is really just parallel melodies as a type of organum or fauxbourdon.

Debussy didn't use modes the way they were used in chant, so you may want to check out that (chant) as well to hear a more traditional use.

#1243260 - 08/04/09 11:41 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Horowitzian]  
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A good example is Kabalevsky's Toccatina (the famous one from Op. 27), it's in the Aeolian mode, basically A minor but without the G#. It's simply harmonized with minor dominants instead of major dominants.

Another is the last movement of the first Ginastera sonata, which also spends a lot of time in the Aeolian mode. It's not so much a melody/harmony piece as it is a contrapuntal one - both lines being in the same mode.

For a classical example, the "Et incarnatus est" of the Credo in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is in d Dorian. Again, it's contrapuntal in nature.

Basically, the chords work the same way as in tonal music. In tonal music, the chords are built from the notes in the scale. In modal music, the same happens, you just end up with slightly different chords. In Mixolydian, for example, you have bVII instead of viio. Lydian has a Major II chord, etc...

Also, just as in tonal music, it's uncommon to find a piece that's entirely in one mode. Just as in tonal music, there are alterations to the harmonies and melodic lines, as well as modulations to and inflections from other keys. One of the peasnat dances from Bartok's "First Term at the Piano" is basically in G mixolydian, but he ends it with a very tonal authentic cadence in G Major. This is fairly common in Bartok - he'll borrow interesting notes from parallel modes, but use tonal harmony at the cadences.

Another example of Bartok changing modes is the Slovakian Boys' Dance from "Ten Easy Pieces." The ending is C dorian, although there is plenty of Ab earlier in the piece. The harmony throughout the piece is the result of voice leading, mostly descending lines in C aeolian.

I think it's important to realize that in the 20th century, composers rarely use modes "just because." They're either trying to invoke the folk musics of various countries (Mixolydian, Dorian, and Aeolian in Eastern Europe, and Phrygian in Spain and Argentina), or they're trying to capture the feeling of 16th century sacred music.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1243271 - 08/04/09 11:49 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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Originally Posted by pianovirus
Originally Posted by Horowitzian
being only a dilettante composer. grin



Then there are actually two dilettante composers active in this thread by now! laugh


grin Glad I'm not the only one! laugh I do hope to study with a fine composer who lives close to me soon, so maybe I won't always be a dilettante. wink


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
#1243275 - 08/04/09 11:51 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Kreisler, thanks for the explanation. I actually play that Toccatina regularly as a warm-up. I think I should analyze it further. I think further study of theory in general would probably behoove me. smile


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#1243578 - 08/04/09 06:06 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Here are two more examples of modular writing:

1. The slow sections of the slow movement from Beethoven's A minor string quartet (op. 132) are written in F Lydian mode (white notes from F to F). In addition to having an interesting modality, this movement is just one of the most heartfelt, beautiful and unusual movements in Beethoven.

2. A great way to explore all the standard modalities is through the C major fugue from Shostakovich's 24 preludes and fugues, op. 87. The fugue uses only white notes, and as the it progresses, you here the theme starting on every possible white note from C to C; correspondingly, all four voices play in the various modes. For instance, halfway through, when the theme resounds like a low bell in the bass starting on B, we experience Locrian mode (white notes B to B). Play through the fugue, and you'll get a nice bird's-eye view of all the modes, not so much in a harmonic context like you asked, but at least in a contrapuntal context.


Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
#1243579 - 08/04/09 06:09 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
A good example is Kabalevsky's Toccatina (the famous one from Op. 27), it's in the Aeolian mode, basically A minor but without the G#. It's simply harmonized with minor dominants instead of major dominants.


I never heard of a minor dominant! I thought they always had to be major. Minor dominants must not be used very often right?

So wait! In the key of C Major or C minor, a minor dominant would be G minor(the v), right?


I have a question myself...


Lets say you write a piece out with 0 sharps or flats(hold out the conclusion of C Major for a sec). Can you base the piece on the Dorian mode(the D minor)of C Major to make the piece in D minor instead of basing the piece on the relative minor of F Major?

So to clarify, even if the piece is written with with 0 sharps or flats, can you say that we are in D minor if we are basing most of the work on the D minor chord, which is the second mode in the key of C Major?

We could just add secondary dominants that lead to the D minor chord to make the tonicization stronger, so our ears wouldn't be tricked into thinking that the piece is in C Major.


#1243995 - 08/05/09 11:07 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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Yes, Kreisler means a minor chord in the dominant position ("v" if you like). A chord in this position would normally be major or a 7th chord in tonal music.

As to your 2nd question: The key signature simply indicates which notes are either sharp or flat in the body of a piece of music. That's it. Your hypothetical piece would only be in D Dorian if it sounded like D Dorian. It should be obvious but I'll remind you that tonicizing the D would make your piece tonal (you can, however, find pieces of music that incorporate elements of tonality and modality). If you want to write modal music, you need to study modal music. Even Debussy, who used modes in his own way, was well-acquainted in how modes were used in chant.

#1244025 - 08/05/09 11:49 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Harmosis]  
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Originally Posted by Harmosis

As to your 2nd question: The key signature simply indicates which notes are either sharp or flat in the body of a piece of music. That's it. Your hypothetical piece would only be in D Dorian if it sounded like D Dorian. It should be obvious but I'll remind you that tonicizing the D would make your piece tonal (you can, however, find pieces of music that incorporate elements of tonality and modality). If you want to write modal music, you need to study modal music. Even Debussy, who used modes in his own way, was well-acquainted in how modes were used in chant.


So you're saying that I can do D dorian if I wanted to instead of just doing regular C Ionian or A Aeolian?

Would basing a piece of D dorian be an example of modal music? Whats the difference between modal music and tonal music?

#1244215 - 08/05/09 05:20 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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Quote
So you're saying that I can do D dorian if I wanted to instead of just doing regular C Ionian or A Aeolian?


Dorian is mode just like Aeolian or Ionian, so yes.


The difference between modal music and tonal music is a long story. But I'll try to give you the short version:

With tonality, you get functional harmony supporting the tonic, e.g., I ii V7 I. There is often chromaticism which, although non-diatonic, still supports the tonic, e.g., I ii V7/V V I, or I ii viiº7 I, etc. Even the melody can include plenty of non-diatonic notes (chromatic approach tones, neighbor tones, passing tones, etc). The music can even emphasize close tonal areas, like V (via tonicization) that still support the tonic. Tonality is not based on a single scale as much is it is based on harmonic (root progressions with proper voice leading) and melodic material that establishes and supports the tonic (regardless of whether this material is diatonic or not). Tonal music always utilizes the leading tone (ti).

Modality emphasizes the melodic aspect and is not dependent on functional harmony (or any harmony, for that matter). There is very little or no chromaticism - the music tends to be strictly diatonic. The melody is mostly conjunct (step-wise), with a modal cadence (step-wise: e.g., D-C, not G-C). Harmonic content tends to be simply parallel lines "colorizing" the melody (you will not see ii V7 I, etc). Because modal music is not dependent on functional harmony, a lot of the time, when there is harmonic content, the music may sound "wandering" until the cadence (it sounds like a chord succession rather than a chord progression). With modality, you do not get the root progressions of functional harmony. You do not get the voice leading of functional harmony. Modal music will have a leading tone only if it is diatonic to the mode.

Now modality is the spring from which tonality came from, so the two are inextricably linked.

#1244460 - 08/06/09 02:14 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Harmosis]  
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Thanks Kreisler, harmosis, and beet, for your helpful answers! Harmosis, that last post of yours was great in trying to differentiate tonality and modality - it reduced my confusion a lot.

#1244603 - 08/06/09 09:30 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Harmosis]  
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Originally Posted by Harmosis
Quote
So you're saying that I can do D dorian if I wanted to instead of just doing regular C Ionian or A Aeolian?


Dorian is mode just like Aeolian or Ionian, so yes.


The difference between modal music and tonal music is a long story. But I'll try to give you the short version:

With tonality, you get functional harmony supporting the tonic, e.g., I ii V7 I. There is often chromaticism which, although non-diatonic, still supports the tonic, e.g., I ii V7/V V I, or I ii viiº7 I, etc. Even the melody can include plenty of non-diatonic notes (chromatic approach tones, neighbor tones, passing tones, etc). The music can even emphasize close tonal areas, like V (via tonicization) that still support the tonic. Tonality is not based on a single scale as much is it is based on harmonic (root progressions with proper voice leading) and melodic material that establishes and supports the tonic (regardless of whether this material is diatonic or not). Tonal music always utilizes the leading tone (ti).

Modality emphasizes the melodic aspect and is not dependent on functional harmony (or any harmony, for that matter). There is very little or no chromaticism - the music tends to be strictly diatonic. The melody is mostly conjunct (step-wise), with a modal cadence (step-wise: e.g., D-C, not G-C). Harmonic content tends to be simply parallel lines "colorizing" the melody (you will not see ii V7 I, etc). Because modal music is not dependent on functional harmony, a lot of the time, when there is harmonic content, the music may sound "wandering" until the cadence (it sounds like a chord succession rather than a chord progression). With modality, you do not get the root progressions of functional harmony. You do not get the voice leading of functional harmony. Modal music will have a leading tone only if it is diatonic to the mode.

Now modality is the spring from which tonality came from, so the two are inextricably linked.


Lol I haven't checked out that site in a long, long time. Looks like I have to reveiw some things.

#1244681 - 08/06/09 11:05 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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Originally Posted by pianovirus
Thanks Kreisler, harmosis, and beet, for your helpful answers! Harmosis, that last post of yours was great in trying to differentiate tonality and modality - it reduced my confusion a lot.


Mine too! Thanks guys. thumb


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#1244881 - 08/06/09 03:18 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Horowitzian]  
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Thanks, Harmosis, for articulating the non-harmony basis of modal music. I play a lot of modal music because I play Irish, American old-time, and other traditional music. I don't play the melody, and I know from experience that it is melody-based and not harmony based, and I know from experience that the backing/accompaniment I use is step-wise, D-C rather than G-C, as you say. But it's really helpful to have it laid out explicitly sometimes, so that it illuminates the experience. Thanks again.'

Cathy


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#1245052 - 08/06/09 07:56 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: jotur]  
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My pleasure smile

#1245523 - 08/07/09 06:50 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Harmosis]  
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Harmosis is my favorite internet theoretician!


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1246330 - 08/09/09 04:09 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Kreisler]  
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
Harmosis is my favorite internet theoretician!


And you're my favorite internet moderator!

#1246397 - 08/09/09 07:16 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Kreisler]  
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
Harmosis is my favorite internet theoretician!
+1


Du holde Kunst...
#1249715 - 08/15/09 09:48 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Harmosis]  
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Originally Posted by Harmosis
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So you're saying that I can do D dorian if I wanted to instead of just doing regular C Ionian or A Aeolian?


Dorian is mode just like Aeolian or Ionian, so yes.


The difference between modal music and tonal music is a long story. But I'll try to give you the short version:

With tonality, you get functional harmony supporting the tonic, e.g., I ii V7 I. There is often chromaticism which, although non-diatonic, still supports the tonic, e.g., I ii V7/V V I, or I ii viiº7 I, etc. Even the melody can include plenty of non-diatonic notes (chromatic approach tones, neighbor tones, passing tones, etc). The music can even emphasize close tonal areas, like V (via tonicization) that still support the tonic. Tonality is not based on a single scale as much is it is based on harmonic (root progressions with proper voice leading) and melodic material that establishes and supports the tonic (regardless of whether this material is diatonic or not). Tonal music always utilizes the leading tone (ti).

Modality emphasizes the melodic aspect and is not dependent on functional harmony (or any harmony, for that matter). There is very little or no chromaticism - the music tends to be strictly diatonic. The melody is mostly conjunct (step-wise), with a modal cadence (step-wise: e.g., D-C, not G-C). Harmonic content tends to be simply parallel lines "colorizing" the melody (you will not see ii V7 I, etc). Because modal music is not dependent on functional harmony, a lot of the time, when there is harmonic content, the music may sound "wandering" until the cadence (it sounds like a chord succession rather than a chord progression). With modality, you do not get the root progressions of functional harmony. You do not get the voice leading of functional harmony. Modal music will have a leading tone only if it is diatonic to the mode.

Now modality is the spring from which tonality came from, so the two are inextricably linked.


The 'functional harmony' of which you speak can just as well be found in modality. Determining which method of reckoning as concerns Aeolian, i.e. - "do" minor or "la" minor can also be interpolated to Dorian with the decision remaining "do" Dorian or "re" Dorian. Modality is the ability to move tonal focus within tonality.


Praise be to Jesus Christ who has raised me from the dead!
#1255331 - 08/24/09 04:14 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Ed Palamar]  
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Excellent feedback in this thread!

If I may, I'd like to offer my own observations: first, I believe that modal music does exhibit tonality, and that it often does so via a 'functional harmony', albeit one that is particular to the mode being used. In my experience, this can apply equally to Impressionist - and some early 20th-century - passages as well as to the harmonization of modal melodies, as found in the popular and folk music traditions of Europe and the Americas -- musical traditions in which the patterns of modal functional harmony are most easily observed.

As a brief example, let's look at the dorian mode, which is widely used in what is often (some would say 'inaccurately') called 'Celtic' music, as well as in the folk and popular musical traditions of most of Europe. The chord qualities in dorian, per scale degree, are:

i (minor), ii (minor), III (major), IV (major), v (minor), vi0 (diminished), and VII (major)

As has previously been explained in this thread, the absence of a 'leading tone', coupled with this quite different order of chord qualities, can make for some very ineffective chord progressions and cadences -- IF one insists on using those progressions and cadences that are particular to the major-minor system that formed the basis of common-practice classical music. Rather, musicians and composers use progressions and cadences that are specific to dorian.

Since the only difference between dorian and the (natural) minor scale is in their submediant (sixth) degrees -- the dorian's is 'raised', relative to that of the natural minor -- it is natural that one finds at least some notable presence of that degree in both dorian melody and accompaniment. While dorian's ii, IV and vi0 all contain it, it is the IV that is most most commonly used to convey the 'dorian sound' via that mode's submediant degree.

Since dorian lacks a leading tone, it's v (minor) cannot parallel the use of V (major) that is so crucial to the functional harmony of the major-minor system. Accordingly, the major-minor system's 'authentic cadence' (V - I) cannot be replicated in dorian; instead, dorian music tends to use VII - i and/or v - i. Neither progression is as powerful as the major-minor authentic cadence, but they are effective enough in conveying formal design, and - of course - are far more effective in conveying 'dorian'! Both progressions are used as 'closing' cadences in the traditional tune "Scarborough Fair". Dorian's equivalent of a half cadence ends on either v (minor) or VII; one can find instances of both in "Scarborough Fair" -- eg, III - i - IV - v, and i - III - (III-VII-III-) VII.

Since seven different modes are available for any given key signature, it is essential that tonality be firmly established, and easily perceived -- otherwise, any given passage can seem to belong to any -- or none -- of the available modes. For this, the same basic techniques are used in modal music as in major-minor music: the tonic degree must figure prominently in melody, as should other mode- and tonic-defining degrees (eg, the dominant in major-minor, the supertonic and subtonic in phrygian, etc, etc); consecutive, step-wise motion (in the same direction) should be used to create melodic direction - direction that should be used to enhance the sense of tonality; harmony, that is appropriate to the mode, should be used in ways that support these melodic characteristics; and so on. . .

Because each mode has its own, specific structure, each also possesses its particular melodic and harmonic features, and what works in one mode may not work well in another. The solution: try to find - and then study - relatively straight-forward examples of music for each mode; dorian, aeolian, and mixolydian are ubiquitous in western European (and, by extension, N. American) folk traditions, while phrygian -- and maybe some lydian --can be found in some Mediterranean cultures. Locrian is another story!

As eloquently stated in this thread, Impressionist and early twentieth-century composers went way beyond this basic type of harmonic treatment of modes, using, among others, techniques sometimes described as "organum" (eg, Debussy), parallel chords (that quickly transcend key), and all types of chromatic inflections that often make modal identification difficult. However, I believe that one can find, even there, deliberately-established tonality, and functional harmony; from one perspective, one could argue that these composers brought to modal passages the same sophisticated compositional techniques they routinely applied to the major-minor system.

For someone -- say, a songwriter -- who wishes to experiment with modes, I would recommend first analysing some of the hundreds of modal folk and popular tunes that are so readily available -- look at their melodic constructions, their chord progressions and cadences. These are, for the most part, simple constructions, and relatively easy to analyse. Once you have these basic models firmly established, take a look at what the Impressionist composers (and some of their predecessors) did with them; as has been pointed out in this thread, mode use, in those compositions, will be less obvious, and often quite transient (eg, Ravel's Ma Mere L'oye, fifth movement, begins in C major, moves to A dorian, back to C major, then into E phrygian - with one chromatic inflection in the melody, - then into C# phrygian, G# phrygian, etc.) Of course, it'll be very helpful if, prior to this, you also have a good grounding in common-practice harmony!

Finally, it should be noted that jazz musicians use modes in an entirely different way: for them, modes are not the basis for composition, but notes to be used against any particular chord -- in short, a kind of memory aid for the intense, and highly sophisticated, melodic and rhythmic work that goes into jazz improvisation.

I hope this is of some use.

All the best,
Michael Leibson
www.thinkingmusic.ca




Last edited by thinkingMusic; 08/24/09 08:48 PM.
#1255398 - 08/24/09 06:03 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]  
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Originally Posted by thinkingMusic
Excellent feedback in this thread!

If I may, I'd like to offer my own observations: first, I believe that modal music does exhibit tonality, and that it often does so via a 'functional harmony', albeit one that is particular to the mode being used. In my experience, this can apply equally to Impressionist - and some early 20th-century - passages as well as to the harmonization of modal melodies, as found in the popular and folk music traditions of Europe and the Americas -- musical traditions in which the patterns of modal functional harmony are most easily observed. For example:

Dorian mode:


Now that is one terse example, thinkingMusic! wink Don't overestimate our intellectual capacities!! laugh

#1255413 - 08/24/09 06:30 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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Originally Posted by pianovirus
Now that is one terse example, thinkingMusic! wink Don't overestimate our intellectual capacities!! laugh


Sorry, pianovirus!! blush As I hope is now visible, I was in mid-sentence when some random key-combination on my computer keyboard turned out to be a shortcut for "Submit", and voila!! I've been busy editing/completing the one that got away, and have just posted what I'd originally intended. wink

#1255432 - 08/24/09 06:59 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]  
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P.S.

I should clarify an important point: in my own reply, I've used the terms "modal music" to mean modal passages and tunes as used by Impressionist and early twentieth-century composers, as well its use in the folk and popular music traditions of Europe and N. America.

If he'll forgive my attempt to paraphrase him, Harmosis rightly speaks of "modal music" and "modality" in terms of that music's original form -- the music of medieval plainchant, and, by extension, it's use in late medieval and early renaissance polyphony.

- Michael Leibson


Last edited by thinkingMusic; 08/24/09 08:46 PM.
#1255677 - 08/25/09 07:27 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]  
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Michael, that was great explanation that really expanded on what was already available in this thread! Thanks so much. I just saw you are offering long-distance composition lessons - I may inquire later this year! (until end of October, I'm 100% busy with preparing my first recital)

#1255770 - 08/25/09 10:26 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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Originally Posted by pianovirus
Michael, that was great explanation that really expanded on what was already available in this thread! Thanks so much.


Thanks for your kinds words -- I'm very glad my post was of help! While there are some wonderful texts on the original use of modes (culminating in Knud Jeppesen's The Style of Palestrina and the Dissonance, which deals with late renaissance polyphony), I've found only a few that explain their use in 19th and 20th century classical composition, and none that do so (in any systematic way) in relation to folk/popular music. Of the former, The Diatonic Modes In Modern Music, by John Vincent (University of California Press, 1951) seems quite thorough, with extensive examples of the use of modes (and their harmonizations) in classical, romantic, Impressionist, and 20th-century repertoire.

Quote
I just saw you are offering long-distance composition lessons - I may inquire later this year! (until end of October, I'm 100% busy with preparing my first recital)

Your first recital -- what an exciting adventure! Here's wishing you a wonderful and complete preparation, and, of course, a most successful performance!

Yes, I do teach via long-distance. Rather than go off-topic, though, I've just sent you a Private Message -- at least, I hope that's what I did (it seems to be formatted as a private, or 'limited' post) -- if you can't find it, please let me know, via michael@thinkingmusic.ca. smile



All the best,
Michael
www.thinkingmusic.ca



#1255808 - 08/25/09 11:36 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]  
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Do you think learning the modes and diatonic CHORDS of the harmonic MAJOR is important?


I also believe that pianists should not learn their modal scales by reference from the tonic mode, but instead learning them seperate, because if I asked you to play the C Major scale, you would be able to play it instantly and wouldn't have to think about it, nor would you reference it to some other scale...
All scales should be the same way.

If I asked you to play all lydian #2 (which comes from harmonic minor) scales in all keys, I bet you couldn't do that without referencing the tonic mode(harmonic minor). You can do that with all the Major, natural minor, melodic minor, and harmonic minor scales, but can you do that with other scales?

Last edited by noSkillz; 08/25/09 11:51 AM.
#1255888 - 08/25/09 01:38 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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Originally Posted by noSkillz
Do you think learning the modes and diatonic CHORDS of the harmonic MAJOR is important?


Hi, noSkillz;

To be honest, I've rarely given the harmonic major scale much thought.

Although this may seem like an overly simplified answer, to me it all comes down to simply knowing one's materials -- and those will differ, according to one's pursuit. A jazz musician must know all transpositions of all currently-used scales/modes instantly -- ie, without having to deduce them anew each time; a composer's interest might lie more in learning the myriad properties and potentials of scales/modes (or other systems) he or she chooses to employ.

As to how best to learn one's modes, perhaps I should leave any comments to the dedicated performers in this forum, as I'm primarily oriented towards composition and analysis.

All the best,
Michael
www.thinkingmusic.ca






#1255908 - 08/25/09 02:17 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]  
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Originally Posted by thinkingMusic
Originally Posted by noSkillz
Do you think learning the modes and diatonic CHORDS of the harmonic MAJOR is important?


Hi, noSkillz;

To be honest, I've rarely given the harmonic major scale much thought.

Although this may seem like an overly simplified answer, to me it all comes down to simply knowing one's materials -- and those will differ, according to one's pursuit. A jazz musician must know all transpositions of all currently-used scales/modes instantly -- ie, without having to deduce them anew each time; a composer's interest might lie more in learning the myriad properties and potentials of scales/modes (or other systems) he or she chooses to employ.

As to how best to learn one's modes, perhaps I should leave any comments to the dedicated performers in this forum, as I'm primarily oriented towards composition and analysis.

All the best,
Michael
www.thinkingmusic.ca









In the first 2 or so bars of Debussy's Clair De Lune (which is in Db Major or C# Major I think), it goes from I to iv, and the chords imply the phrygian b4 or the lydian minor scales, since he goes from Db and F to a C and Eb in the right hand. The C implies the lydian mode and the Gbmin6(iv) implies the minor, so if you put those together, you get a lydian minor.

This is an example where the lydian minor is really useful.

Check out the harmonies of the Chopin's Etudes = so hard harmonically.








Last edited by noSkillz; 08/25/09 02:21 PM.
#1256041 - 08/25/09 05:06 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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Originally Posted by noSkillz
In the first 2 or so bars of Debussy's Clair De Lune (which is in Db Major or C# Major I think), it goes from I to iv, and the chords imply the phrygian b4 or the lydian minor scales, since he goes from Db and F to a C and Eb in the right hand. The C implies the lydian mode and the Gbmin6(iv) implies the minor, so if you put those together, you get a lydian minor.


Hi again, noSkillz;

While I'm glad if this approach works for you, I can't help thinking that you may be creating far more complexity than is either warranted or helpful for you, in those bars. I'll give you my take on them in a moment, but first, here are a couple of things to consider.

First, in order to have a 'scale' or 'mode', one has to hear one of its notes as a 'tonic' -- ie, a note that acts as a kind of centre of gravity, to which all the other notes in the scale relate in various ways. (I live in a rural area, and, with my neighbours' kids, I use a barnyard analogy: "if the notes of the scale are the animals and things on a farm, the 'tonic' is the barn to which they all return at the end of the day".) Debussy's piece is audibly centred around the note "Db"; for that reason, it's important that, when assembling the notes that he uses in the piece, we begin with the Db -- the piece's tonic. We therefore lay out the notes, in alphabetically ascending order, as Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db. This allows us to identify the scale as being "Db major"; had we laid them out from, say, Eb to Eb, we would be implying that the tonic is Eb, not Db, which would produce not the Db major scale, but the Eb dorian mode. So, yes, while C-Db-Eb-F sure looks and sounds like the beginning of C phrygian, it isn't applicable -- because C isn't our tonic, Db is. Make sense?

Also, for hundreds of years, western composers and musicians have introduced notes and chords that do not belong to the prevailing key; there are various specific reasons for this -- eg, chromatic melodic embellishments, 'secondary dominants' (ie, treating a diatonic chord as though it were temporarily its own key, and applying the dominant chord of that key to it), etc., etc. These 'foreign' notes are usually taken as being embellishments of the diatonic notes to which they relate; for example, in this progression (in the key of C major):

C -- A/C# ------- Dm -- G7
I -- V6 of ii ------- ii --- V7

. . . the second chord is temporarily 'borrowed' from the key of D minor (it's the V of that key), and its function is to emphasize the Dm chord -- play the progression, and you'll easily hear how the A/C# almost 'leans into' the Dm chord, thereby temporarily highlighting it. Now here's the relevant part -- the C# is NOT part of the key, nor would it be considered a scale note of its own: there is only one "C" in the key, and the C# isn't regarded as being a new scale degree, but rather the same scale degree, that has been chromatically altered -- raised, in this case -- on its path toward the second degree of the scale (D). Of course, one can conceive of the passage as consisting of a scale that has the notes C-C#-D-E-F-G-A-B, but -- as far as every musician and music text I've ever met/read would think -- that isn't how this music was conceived.

I don't mean to demean your observations, noSkillz, but if I'm incorrect in this particular assessment, I think it's time for me to give up teaching.

To me, the beginning of Claire de Lune is clearly in the key of Db major, and the harmony, per bar, is:

I6 (Db/F) | vii07 (Cdim7) | Iadd6, in first inversion (Db6/F -- an added 6th chord)| V4/3 (Ab7/Eb) |

The vii07 chord is borrowed from the 'parallel minor' -- ie, it is temporarily borrowed from the scale of Ab minor (that is, the scale has temporarily changed from Ab major to Ab minor -- the notes of both scales are not combined to form one super-mode). All the notes that do not 'fit' those chords are known as (surprise!) 'non-harmonic tones', and have specific names and functions; for example, neither the Db nor F in bar two belong to the chord (Cdim7, with notes C-Eb-Gb-Bbb), but first appear as "suspensions" -- they are held over from bar one, where they were chord tones -- and then re-appear as "neighbour notes" (non-harmonic tones that are approached from chord notes that are a step away, and that immediately return to those same chord notes). There are quite a few different types of non-harmonic tones, and learning what they are, and how they behave, can make harmonic analysis much easier.

While jazz musicians use modes to remember note-combinations that are available for certain chords, they (hopefully) are also fully aware of the harmony and the underlying key. However, I've met many beginning jazz musicians who've had unfortunately little previous theoretical background, who fall in love with one theoretical principle or another ('modes' is very popular), and consequently end up thoroughly disoriented. While the ear is really important in jazz, it's pretty hard to get by without strong rudiments, followed by at least some basic harmony.

I'm sorry if I've misunderstood your post, noSkillz -- if I have, please accept my apology! One thing is for sure, noSkillz -- your knowledge of modes is very impressive!


All the best,
Michael
www.thinkingmusic.ca

#1256101 - 08/25/09 07:08 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]  
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Originally Posted by thinkingMusic



C -- A/C# ------- Dm -- G7
I -- V6 of ii ------- ii --- V7

. . . the second chord is temporarily 'borrowed' from the key of D minor (it's the V of that key), and its function is to emphasize the Dm chord -- play the progression, and you'll easily hear how the A/C# almost 'leans into' the Dm chord, thereby temporarily highlighting it. Now here's the relevant part -- the C# is NOT part of the key, nor would it be considered a scale note of its own: there is only one "C" in the key, and the C# isn't regarded as being a new scale degree, but rather the same scale degree, that has been chromatically altered -- raised, in this case -- on its path toward the second degree of the scale (D). Of course, one can conceive of the passage as consisting of a scale that has the notes C-C#-D-E-F-G-A-B, but -- as far as every musician and music text I've ever met/read would think -- that isn't how this music was conceived.


Well think of it this way: The AMaj chord comes directly from the 5th mode of D harmonic minor. Also, like you said it can be thought of as a secondary dominant to the D minor chord, which is the 2nd diatonic chord in the key of C Major. You're not "incorrect" at all, its just that there are many ways of thinking about it. You can think of the A Major(A7) as a secondary dominant or you can think of it as the 5th mode of D harmonic minor.

Originally Posted by thinkingMusic

I don't mean to demean your observations, noSkillz, but if I'm incorrect in this particular assessment, I think it's time for me to give up teaching.


No as I said before, you are not incorrect at all. Keep teaching! smile

Don't forget that I'm still learning too. A lot of harmony can be uncovered by reading websites that devote their entire time to harmony.

I'm still learning my modes, and there are some websites that devote time to modes:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode

It tells a lot about major modes, melodic minor modes, harmonic scale modes, and double harmonic modes. You don't need to know the DOUBLE harmonic minor modes, since they are most likely not used in western music. You do need to learn the double harmonic scale though, but NOT the modes! You need to only learn major, natural minor(relative major), harmonic minor, melodic minor, and harmonic major.

And you need to learn the Harmonic Major modes too, cause they are used in western music too:

http://docs.solfege.org:81/3.14/C/scales/ham.html





So, for the last 3 weeks, I've been trying to memorize all these scales seperately, and I'm still not done. It's well worth it, but when I get done, my harmonic understanding will improve.


Originally Posted by thinkingMusic

While the ear is really important in jazz, it's pretty hard to get by without strong rudiments, followed by at least some basic harmony.


Yeah, that's the way I started out playing jazz. All I knew were my diatonic major chords in all 12 keys. Everything came from that basic knowledge.

Now I know some of the nondiatonic stuff, such as modal mixture and secondary dominants and chromatic mediants. I love these, especially the secondary dominants. I am still a little bit confused on some of the harmonies of the Romantic stuff that Chopin and Liszt wrote. When you look at the music of Chopin and Liszt, you don't know where all these chords are coming from, yet they still have some musical function.




Don't forget that too much information overload will tend to make you forget old stuff smile

And, I'm in the same boat as you... smile I look this stuff up sometimes and a week later, I'll react like I had never seen it before.

Same happens with modes and scales, you just got to use mental repetition(playing scales over and over again and being acutely aware of what notes are in a scale and what fingerings do you use to play this scale) to master modes, and practice them everyday in all keys or else you'll forget them.

Last edited by noSkillz; 08/25/09 07:12 PM.
#1256112 - 08/25/09 07:36 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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"C-C#-D-E-F-G-A-B, but -- as far as every musician and music text I've ever met/read would think -- that isn't how this music was conceived. "

-quote by thinkingMusic




This is the beginning of the A mixolydian b6 scale which is just A B C# D E F G A, and mixolydian b6 is on the wikipedia article I posted. So check that out! Yeah, I've memorized mixolydian b6 in every key already. I know all my major modes and melodic minor modes, and I'm still working on harmonic minor modes cause I'm a bit iffy on that, and I've just begun learning the harmonic major modes today.

At first I didn't even know what this scale was! (Remember this is the one I told you about in Debussy's Claire De Lune) :

F Gb Ab A C Db Eb F

My friend and I were trying to figure out what scale this was, and finally a few minutes later, he discovered it was a phrygian b4. He's the one that brought up harmonic major modes, and now I'm trying to learn them because of him. Actually, I didn't even know that harmonic major even existed until he brought it up!

I asked him, "Isn't phrygian b4 a mode of the harmonic major scale?".

He said yes, so that's why I know phrygian b4 in F. I know it really well now.

As far as Debussy's Clair De Lune, I'm pretty sure the second bar is iv (Gbminor6), because I thought I heard an A in there.

#1256125 - 08/25/09 08:06 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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I made a list of all the modes of the harmonic minor, harmonic major, major, melodic minor scales, and for the last 3 weeks, I have been going right down through this list since that day. About 4 weeks ago, I had to learn the chords involved with the melodic and harmonic minor keys. I was already fluent with major and natural minor. I was semifluent in harmonic minor(I knew the ii V i's in all harmonic minor keys, but I didn't know the 3rd chord, 6th chord, and the 7th chord.

So if you are interested, go write down a list on a sheet of paper of all the modes of the 4 scales that I've mentioned. If you do things right, you can learn about 3 types of modes in all keys per day. Start with learning locrian, dorian, and phrygian today in all keys. Then tomorrow, go through them and see if you know them, and if you don't at least you'll recognize them, and so fix the ones that you don't know. And then later on in the day, learn 3 more.

But learning modes is not going to help you in improv(pulling out stuff that you have played in past and varying it so that you can make these things into music), it will only help you in composing music(the writing down of music coming from your current harmonic knowledge, but isn't reflexivly like improvisation. Stuff like this comes from your theory of chords and modes, and you have all the time in the world to think up a good sounding piece of music)...

Last edited by noSkillz; 08/25/09 08:09 PM.
#1256342 - 08/26/09 07:44 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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That's quite a quest you're on, noSkillz.


Originally Posted by noSkillz
"C-C#-D-E-F-G-A-B, but -- as far as every musician and music text I've ever met/read would think -- that isn't how this music was conceived. "

This is the beginning of the A mixolydian b6 scale which is just A B C# D E F G A . . .

(A.K.A. the 5th mode of the melodic minor, as I'm sure you know.) The inclusion of BOTH 'C' and 'C#' invalidate that possibility.

Quote
As far as Debussy's Clair De Lune, I'm pretty sure the second bar is iv (Gbminor6), because I thought I heard an A in there.

Yes, there is an "A" there, but the notes, as they appear in the score, are Gb-"A"-C-Eb. Gbminor6 would require the notes Gb-Bbb(="A")-Db-Eb. The score's "C" turns it into a C diminished 7 chord, in 2nd inversion (root position = C-Eb-Gb-Bbb -- the score's "A" is an enharmonic equivalent of the Bbb).

Good luck on your quest!
- Michael

#1256358 - 08/26/09 08:21 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: thinkingMusic]  
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Originally Posted by thinkingMusic
That's quite a quest you're on, noSkillz.


You should too if you haven't already... This would be good to know for all of us here in the composer's lounge.

Stuff like this helps with scale recognization.

#1258847 - 08/30/09 02:11 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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nice information all u have about composser

#1259499 - 08/31/09 07:56 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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Speaking of Debussy's Clair De Lune, how did Debussy get away with just playing chords in the left hand?

Most piano stuff has a rhythm in the left hand, but Debussy's Clair De Lune doesn't.

#1259847 - 08/31/09 04:54 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
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I think you need to look at more piano music smile .


Du holde Kunst...
#2313723 - 08/10/14 05:26 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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1.) Could someone give examples of such passages?
2.) How does the use of modes work together with the use of ("traditional") harmony?
There is a good example by J.S.Bach. The 24th Prelude of the Well Tempered Clavier Book 1. I analyzed it.
Here is the result;
http://www.geocities.jp/imyfujita/#wtcpage1241

#2314234 - 08/11/14 02:17 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Iori Fujita]  
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Originally Posted by Iori Fujita

1.) Could someone give examples of such passages?
2.) How does the use of modes work together with the use of ("traditional") harmony?
There is a good example by J.S.Bach. The 24th Prelude of the Well Tempered Clavier Book 1. I analyzed it.
Here is the result;
http://www.geocities.jp/imyfujita/#wtcpage1241


Modes don't work together with traditional harmony. Traditional harmony is tonal (IV-V-I). Modal music isn't simply a case of starting on different scale degrees. Modal music has its own chord vocabulary, and each mode is different.

Modal music tends to be non-classical music, and most of your examples fall into the ethnic category: Turkish, Celtic, Slavic, to name a few cultures.

The modes used by Bach and Vivaldi are often skipped over in Harmony class. The (stupid) reason given is that there's no place in a traditional harmony class for mention of an archaic, non-tonal system that existed only in a vestigial manner in the music of Bach and Vivaldi.

#2314450 - 08/12/14 08:53 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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What is the stupid reason?

#2314493 - 08/12/14 10:21 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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There is definitely a language issue going on here.


Regards,

Polyphonist
#2314718 - 08/12/14 08:12 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 No.24 Prelude
Base line! transposed!
[Linked Image]

Last edited by Iori Fujita; 08/12/14 08:13 PM.
#2315570 - 08/14/14 04:31 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Polyphonist]  
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Originally Posted by Polyphonist
There is definitely a language issue going on here.


Fifty years ago, words failed people. Today, people fail words.

#2315848 - 08/15/14 07:28 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: pianovirus]  
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Dear gismonks,
You should talk about music.
Iori Fujita


#2316149 - 08/16/14 05:13 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Iori Fujita]  
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Originally Posted by Iori Fujita
Dear gismonks,
You should talk about music.
Iori Fujita


I was. That you missed the point proves Polyphonist's point.

#2316223 - 08/16/14 10:54 AM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: gsmonks]  
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Originally Posted by gsmonks
Originally Posted by Iori Fujita
Dear gismonks,
You should talk about music.
Iori Fujita


I was. That you missed the point proves Polyphonist's point.
I believe it would be more helpful if you explained. I agree there's a language issue, but that won't go away unless someone explains themselves.

#2322430 - 08/31/14 09:50 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Steve Chandler]  
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Originally Posted by Steve Chandler
Originally Posted by gsmonks
Originally Posted by Iori Fujita
Dear gismonks,
You should talk about music.
Iori Fujita


I was. That you missed the point proves Polyphonist's point.
I believe it would be more helpful if you explained. I agree there's a language issue, but that won't go away unless someone explains themselves.


All righty. The stupid reason, as I said, was the one provided in the same sentence.

Getting back to modes vs Harmony: it's useless to talk about modes unless, in the same breath, you're also addressing the matter of the Harmony that goes with those self-same modes.

As stated before, modal music is not tonal music. The "pillars of tonality" are IV-V-I. Modal music doesn't work that way. Each mode has its own chord vocabulary and set of rules.

There are several approaches to studying modes. The first is to analyse music that uses modes, and that generally entails the study of ethnic music. The second is to examine the treatment various composers have employed, down through the centuries. The third is to take each mode and come up with your own tone palate.

#2322435 - 08/31/14 09:58 PM Re: Confused about modes vs. harmony [Re: Claude56]  
Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 652
gsmonks Offline
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gsmonks  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 652
Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted by Claude56
Speaking of Debussy's Clair De Lune, how did Debussy get away with just playing chords in the left hand?

Most piano stuff has a rhythm in the left hand, but Debussy's Clair De Lune doesn't.


The rhythm is in the right hand. In this case it's referred to as "melodic rhythm".

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