tonality without a tritone
What ...? No tritone? This is a joke yes? Nope. But without the tritone the blues lines de-evolve back to being pentatonic and we've no dominant chord. Aren't these root colors of the American sounds? They are indeed .... and at least up to this point in the evolution of the theory in this text.
So, what is meant by "tonality without a tritone" in this text? Well, basically that the traditional function of the tritone as contained within the dominant 7th ( V 7 ) chord is removed from the harmonic palette, thus affecting the authentic cadencing ( V 7 to I ) as found in virtually all of the equal tempered music created in the last couple of hundred years. That in composing music in this tritonal void so to speak, we only use the harmonic colors as created by the consistent cycling of major 3rd / minor 3rd and it's inverse, both of which are oftentimes defined in this text as chord type, being the tonic function chords of the major and minor tonalities. Thus, only tonic function major and minor triads and their color tone extensions form the basis of harmonic motion in a "tonality without a tritone."
Historically, is there music we know of that is created in such a fashion? For sure. Written scores from the mid and later 1800's contain music of this quality, right on up through our current "new age" jazz. Thus, if music has historically been a reflection of the societal times in which it has been created, what happens when the tritone, dominant chord color is omitted from the creative musicians palette of harmonic colors? In Ayn Rand's important 20th century fictional novel "Atlas Shrugged", on a few occasions, the highlight of the narrative centers around the performance of new symphonic works created by a composer named Richard Haley. To paraphrase, the music was described by Ms Rand as to "transcend the boundaries of tonality, creating an unsurpassed spiritual beauty and sense of fulfillment." Could this music have been theoretically based on the cycling of pitches and key centers without the tritone containing dominant 7th chords?
So, no tritone containing dominant chord? Is this mostly unexplored area of our resource a potential direction for composers? Will the music created from these unexplored areas be yet another catalyst that continues to raise the consciousness of the creators of the various styles of American music? The upward pursuit towards the light of freedom, in love and forgiveness, sharing and caring for our fellow human beings? Music of an unsurpassed gentleness and beauty of flowing colors.
Along these artistic ideals, let's look at a few cool, traditional combinations of the non tritone colors. The most basic non dominant motion or cycle is to simply morph back and forth between the major and minor tonalities. We hear this vamp all the time in all sorts of styles and grooves. Example 1.
Of course, the reverse is just as common. Moving from minor to major. Example 1a.
From the cycling of pitches from the colortone series experiments, we see the cycling of the Lydian and Dorian colors. Here the motion is from C Lydian to C# Dorian. Example 2.
Can this be expanded on through all of the tonal centers? Yep.
Reversing the order of the two colors. Example 2a.
Can this be expanded on through all of the tonal centers? Yep. Can we create giant cycles of non tritone color? Yep. And yet, do we oftentimes include such non tritone ideas with tritone colors in the same music? Of course, anything is possible right?
A common way to evolve the common Two / Five / One cadential motion is to simply sub out for the dominant chord with it's tritone sub, then soften this color to match the resolution's color, thus G 7 becomes Db 7 then softened to Db maj 7 etc. This next idea in the major tonality follows this guideline using the dreaded parallel motion of the 18th century classical cats. Example 3.
Imagine life without the half step... wow, big changes.
Blues without a tritone is simply not THE BLUES right? Agreed, we are on some pretty weird ground here. Perhaps we could simply inject our tritoneless colors into the 12 bar blues form and watch what happens? Example 4.
Has a bit of a American pop music sound n'est pas? Maybe better in the minor tonality?
Sound familiar? Minor blues is always cool. Pretty common for sure, but still not to shabby for just moving one chord around eh?
So, tonality without a tritone, any new ideas for ya here? Needless to say there's a ton of potential in combining less remote colors, perhaps in creating cycles of keys, modulating these cycles around to build climaxes etc. Using a foot tapping rhythm to motor the non tritone environments along can create a very free solo environment for telling stories, keep the dancers dancing and getting everyone in a good mood. For the jazz artist, getting one or two chords for extended blowing is a real treat, as we are so often playing over modulating changes. Maybe sub in a non tritone vamp as an interlude in one of your arrangements of a standard etc.
So, can we mix these non tritone bearing musical elements with ones that incorporate this essential blues American color? You bet, we do it all here.
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Dance as if no one was watching,
Sing as if no one was listening,
And live every day as if it were your last.