I saw an organ accompaniment in phrygian (or hypophrygian) (E as finalis). The last chord was C major. Should we end phrygian and hypoohrygian on a major chord?


The question is what you mean by "Phrygian." Particularly when you introduce terms like "hypophrygian," you are referencing melodic classifications like those used to discuss monophonic chant. Phrygian, in that case, just means that the finalis falls on E. Whether it's just "phrygian" vs. "hypophrygian" is an indicator of ambitus (i.e., range). Often there are characteristic melodic gestures, recitation tones, and cadential patterns for such melodies in those modes too.

If all you're referring to is the mode of the melody a piece is based on, then there are often many possible ways to harmonize the melody. The most traditional method would be to retain an E-based chord (usually minor) at cadences, perhaps with a concluding turn to an E major chord at the final cadence. (Historically, the major chord was viewed as a stronger consonance than the minor triad, so minor mode pieces often would end with a major chord.) But both historically and today, Phrygian chant melodies have been harmonized to end on another chord, such as A major/minor or C major.

Bottom line is that melodic classification of a chant melody is one thing, while the actual chords and key a piece may be harmonized with could be another. Modern pop/jazz theory treats "Phrygian mode" as something that is primarily based on chosen notes of a scale and harmony, but historically words like "Phrygian" and "Hypophrygian" were about melodic features.

So when you say the "organ accompaniment" was "in Phrygian," I'm unsure what that means. Does it mean that the harmony was based in chords drawn from an E Phrygian scale (which would include C major)? Does it mean it was an organ accompaniment of a chant that's in the Phrygian melodic mode? Regardless, the choice of what chords to choose to be in an accompaniment is flexible depending on what your priorities are and what sound you like.

| improve this answer | |

We can actually finish any piece on any chord - there's no ruling to say otherwise!

Minor pieces can and do finish on a major chord; it's from the parallel key, and it's called the tierce de Picardie.

But in your case, it seems like the piece is in E Phrygian, the parent key of which is C major. So throughout the piece, the diatonic notes from C will have been the most used. It won't be too jarring to finish on the root chord from that key. And, it contains an E note anyway.

| improve this answer | |
  • If you play C as the ending chord, isn't it like admitting that C was the real tonic after all? So it was just a phrygian wannabe pretender! Fake copy. ;) Like a politician - claims to be something, but it's just a facade - inside it's different. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Nov 11 '19 at 12:27
  • You can end a piece on which chord you want. There is no chord poliece! @piiperi: I understand your joke! But the deriving the real tonic from the final chord is just a hint to find what is lying in front of us while and not a must! While the politicians - you can see only after their decease whether they deceived. – Albrecht Hügli Nov 11 '19 at 13:10
  • You can end it in a C, but IMO from that point on it isn't phrygian anymore. :) Maybe most of the tune is, but the end isn't. You changed the modal feeling. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Nov 11 '19 at 13:31
  • "Tierce de Picardie" is actually called "Tierce picarde" in french. – Alice Oualouest Nov 11 '19 at 13:59
  • 1
    @Tim "Tierce de Picardie" is correct French too, just not used in this context. – Alice Oualouest Nov 12 '19 at 17:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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