In a previous question, I asked about sources of harmonic ambiguity in tonal music. (Sources of harmonic ambiguity in tonal music)

While the question was closed as being too broad, I did receive an excellent answer in which the answerer claimed that “anything is uncertain if what follows will cause the ear to reinterpret it.”

This of course begs the question: is there a classification of types of instances or a list of chord-progressions or more abstract formulas where what was previously heard is reinterpreted as something else?


If I understood what you are talking about, I think you are making more a big deal of it then it really is. I personally have never heard of such classifications nor formulas and I don't believe they exist.

As I see it, reinterpretation is a natural part of music and it probably happens more than we can even notice. Our brain tends to make assumptions about everything that we see or hear, based on patterns and previous experience, and this assumptions are often wrong and constantly changing.

For example, let's say you begin a song with the C chord. By playing this alone it sounds like a tonic, right? If then you play D7, you realize C was a subdominant, and the tonic is probably G (witch you hope is coming next). But if instead you play D#º, now you see C was VIb, D was VIIb, and Em will probably be the tonic. I could go on forever with this example and by each new chord you would reinterpret every previous chord.

As an exercise, you could take any song you like and pause it on every chord. Think over it, think what it sounds like, think what you hope is coming next. I bet you will find yourself reinterpreting things several times.


If by ambiguity you mean that chords are perceived differently in context, an example of a specific formula might simply be cadence. Especially when chord progressions mixes different cadences to screw with our expected perception of a chord. The concept of cadence describes why chords in any progression are perceived as having different characteristics.

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