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Roots of the ClassicalThe Popular Origins of Western Music$
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Peter Van der Merwe

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780198166474

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198166474.001.0001

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The Ramellian Paradigm

The Ramellian Paradigm

Chapter:
(p.19) 2 The Ramellian Paradigm
Source:
Roots of the Classical
Author(s):

Peter van der Merwe

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198166474.003.0003

The orthodox view is that melody is based on harmony, at least in Western classical music. But this ‘Ramellian paradigm’ (so called because it was given classic expression by Rameau in the early 18th century) is a fallacy. If melody is ‘arpeggiated’ harmony, then harmony is consolidated melody. If anything has primacy, it is melody. The traditional concept of tonality, as developed over the past two centuries, centres exclusively on the harmony (in effect, the bass), but there is potentially another tonality, that of the melody (usually the top line). The aesthetically satisfying conflict between the two is here called ‘tonal counterpoint’.

Keywords:   Rameau, Ramellian paradigm, harmony, melody, tonality, tonal counterpoint

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