The Nineteenth‐Century Vernacular
Nineteenth-century music spoke essentially the same language, regardless of national differences or height of brow. Its most fundamental feature was the increasing independence of melody, which made possible a ‘tonal counterpoint’ between melody and harmony, in which the melodic key was at odds with the harmonic one. Other common features were key mixture, progressive (harmonic) tonality (i.e., starting and ending in the different keys), and harmonic progressions dropping from fifth to fifth, often through a series of dominant chords. The subdominant chord became more important, sometimes taking over the functions of the dominant. Both melody and harmony became increasingly pentatonic, though sometimes in chromatic disguise. As the main structural procedure, antithesis tended to be replaced by climax, in the original sense of a series of statements of increasing emphasis. Especially important was the ‘cadential climax’ or graded cadences.
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