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tonality (tōnălˈĭtē), 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 harmony the terms key 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 atonality and serial music). The term tonality is also used in contrast to modality (see mode).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Lineation in poems like Williams' "Pastoral" or "Tract" often coincides with neutral tonality, especially at the beginnings and ends of poems.
They need to listen to examples of in-tune singing and they need to hear examples of wandering tonality. It is practice for some teachers to use the national anthem as an audition piece for advanced or festival choirs, precisely because of the modulations and intervals contained in the melody.
* How do the disputants perceive the mimic, gesture, physical appearance and tonality and accent of the chair?
Removing the grill cloth improved the speakers' tonality in the upper midrange, but the speaker does not look correct this way, and an even heavier hand on the treble control was required.
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Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychology lecturer at Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London, came up with the feel-good formula: P + Pos + T + BPM + I S (where P Pitch, Pos the % of positive lyrics, T Tonality, BPM Beats per Minute, I Images/Memories associated with the music, S Serotonin level.
In contrast, I change the rhythms often in such a way that each exercise has its own rhythm and tonality, working the muscles in a progressive way.
Space has tonality, and I imagine myself composing a space, lofty, vaulted or under a dome, attributing to it a sound character alternating with the tones of the space, narrow and high, with graduating silver, light to darkness.
Arnold Schoenberg's "denial of tonality," his claim that tonality is merely an arbitrary human construct, is the beginning of music's liberation.
Following a brief introduction to the sources, the author devotes one chapter to each of the main elements of practical music with which early modern theory is concerned: time, pitch structure, harmony, compositional rules, tonality, and texture and form.