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Related to Functional tonality: tonal system, Major-minor tonality


(tōnăl`ĭtē), in music, quality by which all tones of a composition are heard in relation to a central tone called the keynote or tonic. In music that has harmonyharmony,
in music, simultaneous sounding of two or more tones and, especially, the study of chords and their relations. Harmony was the last in the development of what may be considered the basic elements of modern music—harmony, melody, rhythm, and tone quality or timbre.
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 the terms keykey.
1 In music, term used to indicate the scale from which the tonal material of a given composition is derived. To say, for example, that a composition is in the key of C major means that it uses as its basic tonal material the tones of that scale which is associated
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 and tonality are practically synonymous, embracing a hierarchy of constituent chords, and a hierarchy of related keys. Some relationship to a tonic is characteristic of all music except that in which it is deliberately avoided (see atonalityatonality
, in music, systematic avoidance of harmonic or melodic reference to tonal centers (see key). The term is used to designate a method of composition in which the composer has deliberately rejected the principle of tonality.
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 and serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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). The term tonality is also used in contrast to modality (see modemode,
in music. 1 A grouping or arrangement of notes in a scale with respect to a most important note (in the pretonal modes of Western music, this note is called the final or finalis
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(tonal’nost’), in Russian music terminology, the pitch position of a mode, as well as the modal system at a specific pitch. The term “tonality” is also used to designate the major-minor modal system. The designation of a tonality in the major-minor modal system includes the pitch position according to the letter system, such as C, A, F sharp, or B (H), and the mode, whether major or minor. In 20th-century music, where a clear classification of a mode as major or minor is often doubtful or impossible, the tonality is often designated without indication of the mode, as in Stravinsky’s Serenade in A (that is, with A as the tonic).

The essence of tonality in the conventional major-minor modal system is the creation of a stable and logically differentiated system of modal values for tones and harmonies at a specific pitch, wherein the tones and harmonies give preference to one tone (the tonic) or harmony, from which the given tonality derives its name. The major-minor modal system is marked by a pronounced gravitation of the subordinate tones and harmonies toward the tonic. In an extended musical piece, this gravitation may also be felt in a succession of keys; for example, a succession of G major and D minor creates a gravitation toward a key of a higher order, C major, which unites them both. A change of keys is called modulation. The modulation movement creates the tonality plan that anchors the whole piece. In this case, one key usually dominates, and the entire musical work may be designated by it. Examples are J. S. Bach’s Fantasy and Fugue in G minor for Organ and Mozart’s Symphony in C major.



1. Music
a. the actual or implied presence of a musical key in a composition
b. the system of major and minor keys prevalent in Western music since the decline of modes
2. the overall scheme of colours and tones in a painting
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