Take the 2-minute tour ×
Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In most cases the penultimate note of the counterpoint will be the leading tone, which must be raised in minor to establish a sense of tonality. But why is the leading tone in the Phrygian mode (E-E) the one exception? Even though it is a minor mode the seventh step of the scale is NEVER raised. Why?

Transferred from: Few Questions on Counterpoint in the Tradition of Johan Fux

share|improve this question
    
In the other minor modes, i.e., Dorian and Aeolian, the leading note may or may not be raised. This creates a melodic interval with the supertonic .In Phrygian,raising the leading note gives an odd sounding interval with the supertonic. I'm only guessing. –  Tim May 31 '13 at 7:23
    
@Tim - Again, please refer to my posted answer. –  jjmusicnotes May 31 '13 at 8:13
    
@Tim: exactly, an augmented second (that's from google translate). That is practically the same as a minor third, and you wouldn't want thirds in your scale. Especially not in the 15th century. –  11684 Jun 2 '13 at 14:47
    
In Phrygian E, the raised leading note becomes D#.The supertonic (2nd note) is F. D# - F will be an ordinary 2nd, not a good sound to resolve to E. Did I miss your point? –  Tim Jun 2 '13 at 19:16
1  
@Tim - This is incorrect. D#-F is actually a diminished third but will sound as a major second. –  jjmusicnotes Jun 2 '13 at 20:42

3 Answers 3

The easiest answer to a question is the simplest one requiring the fewest assumptions. In this case I think there is a useful general principle: consecutive semitones are generally avoided because the tone in the middle sounds like a chromatic passing tone. If you are in E Phrygian and you move from D# to E, and then to F, then the E in the middle sounds like a chromatic passing tone and not like a scale step. That is not a good thing to do to a final! More here: Pressing, J. (1978). Towards an understanding of scales in Jazz. Jazzforschung, 9, 25–35. Also here: The Consecutive-Semitone Constraint on Scalar Structure: A Link between Impressionism and Jazz, by Dmitri Tymoczko

share|improve this answer

I have a theory,

In the phrygian mode you have a flat second, and you always end the Cantus firmus by going II I.

If you were to sharpen the 7th then you would have a major 2nd interval, a dissonance which is against the rules of counterpoint, but a natural 7th creates an interval of a minor 3rd.

I'm sure early on in the book he talks about how the ending should resolve based on major/minor intervals, rather than the degree of the scale.

share|improve this answer
up vote 4 down vote accepted

This is an astute question, and I will preface my response by saying that it is speculatory at best as I do not know of any scholarly research done that is available to me to provide a qualitative, academic answer.

That said, I believe this website offers thoughtful reasoning as to this occurrence.

Transferred from: Few Questions on Counterpoint in the Tradition of Johan Fux

share|improve this answer
1  
JJ - could you add a summary of that website to this answer? Otherwise it is pretty much just a link. –  Dr Mayhem Jul 12 '13 at 13:32
1  
In a sense, the flat-2 is the leading tone in Phrygian. It just happens to lead downward to the tonic instead of upward. –  Matthew Briggs Jun 14 at 7:32

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.