Music in History

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About Tonality

"Tonality"  is a term referring to a type of music. It describes how the music is organized on a base of a central note. The term is applied to European (classical) music as we know it from 17th to the end of 19th century. This term also refers to contemporary music genres, like jazz. There are several terms to describe other types of music, such as "atonality, twelve-tone technique, serialism, chromatic, polytonality" ( all these techniques came up during the 20th century)
The term "tonality" was first used in the 19th century by Alexandre- Etienne Choron (1810) and Francois- Joseph Fetis (1840). Indeed, François- Joseph Fétis was the first to deal  with the history of harmony systematically,  before Hugo Riemann (July 18, 1849 - July 10, 1919).
During the 16th century, the music came to use only two music modes, the Ionian (major) and Aeolian (minor). These modes became the scales of tonal music.
The central point of a scale, is called "tonal center". To be a melody understood and accepted by the public, it has to  come back periodically and stand  (more or less) in this tonal center. Thus, phrases and periods are  created. This return to the tonal center (through dominant) is called "Authentic cadence."

Historically, the most prevalent way to explain the basis of tonality is the natural order of the harmonics. Since antiquity people had noticed that, by dividing a vibrating chord, various sounds were produced that sounded well when combined. The simplest were the ratios of the division, the more consonant the sounds when sounded together. For example, a chord divided in 2  (while only one part vibrates) gives the octave (ratio 2: 1). We know that Pythagoras (maybe people before him too) expressed these relations using the mathematics of his time. We should note here that the ancients did not consider an interval  consisted of 3rds as a consonant one  because of the complex mathematical relationship ratio 64:81, with simplification = 4: 5; however, the Arabs and Persians had probably accepted it.
Once the 16th century, Ludovico Fogliani (Musica theorica, 1529), relying on older theories of Didymus and Ptolemy, suggested the intervals with 3rds as consonant intervals , for the first time in western music theory. Shortly afterwards Zarlino, (Istitutioni harmoniche, 1558) expressed not only the series of overtones - Undertones, but also the idea of consonant chords, major and minor, in a mathematical way. Indeed, he expressed the idea that, mathematically, the minor chord is exactly the opposite of the major. But Zarlino's ideas were to be  forgotten until  the 18th century,  when Jan Phillipe Rameau re-discovered the harmonic series, acoustically.
Historically, music was recognized as one of the fine arts and it was separated from philosophy, during the 18th century.

                                      L.Bernstein on harmonic series

                                                       Harmonic series

Hugo Riemann, "the Nature of Harmony"

                                                      Undertone series

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