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pedal point[′ped·əl ‚pȯint]
(organ point; pedal), a sustained bass note, against which the upper voices move freely, often into distant keys. Its harmonic concord with the other voices is established at or not long before its cessation.
The term “pedal point” (or “organ point”) reflects the frequent use of the device in organ music. It originated in folk instrumental music. The pedal point heightens or diminishes the tension in a composition and unifies diverse elements in the development of the upper voices. The tonic (I) and the dominant (V) are most commonly used as pedal points. Characteristic of the folk music of various peoples is a pedal point that sounds the tonic and the dominant simultaneously (volynka basses). Pedal points are also encountered in the middle and upper voices. A pedal point may consist of a repeated sound or a short melodic phrase, as well as a single, sustained note.