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And the further you modulate away from the tonic key, the more tension you create?

I've been looking over both of Rachmanioff's op. 33 and 39 etude tableau and notice regular climax in his music. So far I have judged his climax section to used: -Many accidentals(modulation) - melodic units are usually repeated and sometimes shortened when approaching climax - usually approaches the high end of the piano range

  • Do you mean "And the further you modulate away from the home key"? – Dekkadeci Dec 29 '19 at 8:19
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the further you modulate away from the tonic key, the more tension you create?

If you mean "tonic key" as in Sonata form https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonata_form then I don't know, I tried to listen to some of those examples, and I'd say, if such a phenomenon exists, then it fades away within seconds and isn't particularly strong. I hadn't even heard such a term before. What I understand from Sonata form, the keys that are modulated to and form aren't arbitrary like you could pick any number of semitones 1-11, the keys have something "structural" to do with each other.

Talking about modulations, the terms that are used are tonic note, sometimes tonic chord. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonic_(music)

Modulation means that the tonic note moves. When a modulation happens, you forget the old tonic within a few seconds, so whatever tension or other feelings were caused by the modulation, it's not permanent. The feelings fade away quite quickly.

Accidentals don't mean modulation, at least a permanent one. Individual notes with accidentals only mean very short temporary changes to the scale-, and usually that means some kind of a change in the prevailing mode, i.e. harmony around the tonic. Or a note with an accidental could be simply a chromatic passing tone or other embellishment that is so brief that it doesn't change the feeling of mode even temporarily. A key signature change might mean a modulation, because key signature changes are larger events that can be used between sections, or at least nobody bothers using them for mode changes lasting only a couple of bars. In some jazz tunes that constantly jump between keys and modes, the notation might just use individual accidentals all the way through. Or a player might improvise her own mode changes, which of course isn't notated at all.

  • "There is no such thing as "tonic key" " - you might want to change how this is formulated. In sonata form there IS a "tonic key". It just has another function – NickQuant Dec 30 '19 at 9:31
  • @NickQuant Thanks, I had never heard of that. I should have checked it first. Anyway, I tried to listen to Beethoven's Waldstein sonata, but I couldn't retain a sense of previous tonics over long periods of time. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Dec 30 '19 at 10:31

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