Tonal Function

Tonal Function

 

in music, the tonal significance of an individual degree of a scale. The concept of tonal functions has been most fully elaborated for chords (harmonic functions) and defines the role of chords in a tonal organization.

There are two types of general chordal functions: stability, or state of rest, and instability, or movement. In the major and minor tonal system, stability is a function of the tonic chord, which defines the center of a tonality. There are two unstable functions: the dominant and subdominant. Dominant and subdominant chords are built on tones that are acoustically very closely related to the root of the tonic and which are a fifth above the root and a fifth below, respectively, hence the logical opposition of the functions of the dominant and subdominant, an opposition that is intensified by their contrasting tonal structures. The tritone interval that lies between the root of the subdominant and the third tone of the dominant (the leading tone of the key) intensifies the tendency of the chords to gravitate toward the root and third of the tonic chord. The workings of harmonic functions are seen most clearly in cadences.

The premises of a theory of harmonic functions are contained in the works of J.-P. Rameau, M. Hauptmann, and A. von Oettingen. N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov developed the notion of a “group” comprising the tonic, subdominant, and dominant in his work Textbook of Harmony.

A developed theory of harmonic functions was advanced in the late 19th century by H. Riemann. According to Riemann, all chords in a given key represent transformations of three “functionally” different chords: the tonic, dominant, and subdominant. The Soviet theoretician B. L. lavorskii proposed an original conception of tonal functions that involves “moments of gravitation.” An important contribution toward a theoretical development was made by the Soviet musicologist Iu. N. Tiulin. The theory of harmonic functions is most frequently used in the analysis of harmony in the music of the mid-18th to the early 20th century.

REFERENCES

Riemann, H. Uproshchennaia garmoniia ili uchenie o tonal’nykh funktsiiakh akkordov. Moscow, 1901. (Translated from German.)
Katuar. G. D. Teoreticheskii kurs garmonii, parts 1–2. Moscow, 1924–25.
Tiulin, Iu. N. Uchenie o garmonii, 3rd ed, part 1. Moscow, 1966.
Sposobin, I. V. Lektsii po kursu garmonii. Moscow, 1969.
Imig, R. Systeme der Funktionsbezeichnung in den Harmonielehren seit Hugo Riemann. Düsseldorf, 1970.

IU. N. KHOLOPOV

References in periodicals archive ?
For further discussion of the "harmonic problem" see her "Grundgestalt as Tonal Function," Music Theory Spectrum 3 [1983]: 15-38; my "Goethe and Schoenberg: Organicism and Analysis" in Music Theory and The Exploration of the Past, eds.
The alternative method, of creating three intersecting tonalities, may also be valid from the point of view that any three-dimensional tonal system may have tonal functions in different planes, rather than retaining the linear basis that helical tonalities imply.
Wilson, then, does not favour precompositional pitch systems, whether extensions of tonal functions (Lendvai's axis theory) or the abstract symmetries generated by inversionally related interval cycles (Antokoletz).
dominant, transposition) synonymous with the three common-practice tonal functions is perhaps the most questionable part of the theory.
10] Lewin transforms the arrangement of tonic, dominant, and subdominant triads linked by common tones (see Example 1) into an expression for constructing systems of tonal functions given a tonic pitch-class T, a dominant interval d, and a mediant interval m.
Thus, Lewin shows a way to generalize tonal functions to sonorities not usually considered tonal.
On the other hand, musical structures traditionally thought of as nontonal, such as tone rows and arrays, may be adapted to simulate tonal functions, or their structure could be the basis of determining tonally analogous functions.