Whole-Tone Scale

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Whole-Tone Scale

 

a scale composed entirely of whole tones, six to the octave. The scale was used as a comic device by W. A. Mozart in the sextet A Musical Joke (1787), and it is encountered from time to time in romantic music. M. I. Glinka used the whole-tone scale in Ruslan and Liudmila as the motif identifying Chernomor (the “Chernomor scale”); the scale has also been used by other Russian composers, such as A. S. Dargomyzhskii and A. P. Borodin, and by French impressionist composers. As the expression of a unique “augmented chord harmony,” the whole-tone scale came to be used as the harmonic foundation of individual sections of a work or occasionally of entire compositions, for example, the prelude Voiles by C. Debussy. By the mid-20th century, the expressive possibilities of the whole-tone scale had essentially been exhausted, and it is now used very rarely.

References in periodicals archive ?
There is also a smorgasbord of different melodic materials including modes, whole tone scales, blues scales, as well as major and minor scales.
Book 3 contains "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai, utilizing whole tone scales and a broken left hand chord pattern to represent the waves.
In this work, the composer is almost laying out his manifesto for the future of music: chords constructed on fourths, whole tone scales challenging the very ideas of harmonic and melodic language.
In this work, Liszt's use of whole tone scales and augmented triads were beyond anything audiences knew in 1860, and he feared it was too advanced for the audiences of the time.