The significance of a tritone?

Chords, scales, harmony, melody, etc.
Stamped Records
KVRist
234 posts since 20 Sep, 2018 from UK

Post Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:31 am

I know that its dubbed the devils chord, at least by the church. So that in itself makes me wonder what it is that the church is unhappy about.

I know its the halfway point in an octave and that tritone is three whole tones, but is there any musical significance?

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vurt
addled muppet weed
44343 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:43 am

my church is fine with it.
but then i am a satanist.

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jancivil
KVRAF
18255 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:51 am

I can't verify that Diabolus in Musica whole trip, I wasn't there and I'm not a musicologist, but the Holy Roman Church polyphony liked the simplest concords, ie., the simplest ratios 2:1, 3:2, 4:3 above all if more than one note sounded simultaneously. In Pythagorean intonation, it's 729:512. In five-limit Just Intonation, 45:32.

"Musical significance" is a broad subject. It's comparatively unstable given the above. So a harmony containing it in classical music practice, conventionally carries some expectation of resolution, as a dissonance. F/B to E/C. In a dominant seventh-type resolution. V7 to I (or a substitute) or vii to I harmonic resolution.

But something like James Brown, you just sit on a Major/Minor chord (major triad, minor 7th) with it needing to go nowhere particularly. I call it that objective name in preference to 'dominant 7th' because that is a function which isn't present.

In something like this:
le fils pg 1.png
(Satie's Prelude, Act I le fils des étoiles; which prefigures McCoy Tyner and others in modern jazz, planing quartal stacks)

it's yet another matter, mixed with P4ths.

More simply functional jazz, ii-V-I function, the dominant 7th basis may well have an added 9th or more. So it's ever-present, you aren't likely to have the V function and no 7th. It's so prevalent that the dominant 7th harmony can be known simply by the aug 4th dyad in the context.
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Last edited by jancivil on Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:08 am, edited 2 times in total.

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vurt
addled muppet weed
44343 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:54 am

a good example is black sabbath - "black sabbath" from the album 'black sabbath's
the intro.
has a threatening doom quality!

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jancivil
KVRAF
18255 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:04 am

if a kind of cartoonish and obvious Doom. :scared:
Probably the first big use of that is in Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath in Berlioz' hevvy metal masterpiece Symphonie Fantastique.


Purple Haze doubles this E - e octave back and forth with the bass at Bb.

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herodotus
KVRAF
5557 posts since 8 Dec, 2004 from The Twin Cities

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:57 am

Stamped Records wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:31 am
I know that its dubbed the devils chord, at least by the church. So that in itself makes me wonder what it is that the church is unhappy about.

I know its the halfway point in an octave and that tritone is three whole tones, but is there any musical significance?
The diabolis in musica bit actually derives from the time of Guido D'Arezzo. It had less to do with church doctrine than it had to do with Pythagorean acoustic theory. To cut it to the bone, musical intervals were supposed to conform to a superparticular ratio (e.g. 1:2, 2:3, 3:4, 4:5, etc.). Why would take all day to explain, but the point is that a trirone can not be expressed as a superparticular ratio, but it arises accidentally out of a system of intervals that do conform to such ratios.

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BertKoor
KVRAF
11038 posts since 8 Mar, 2005 from Utrecht, Holland

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:01 am

Stamped Records wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:31 am
[...] the devils chord [...]
[pedantic] The tritone is just an interval, not a whole chord [/pedantic]
We are the KVR collective. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Image
My MusicCalc is back online!!

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Gamma-UT
KVRAF
4697 posts since 8 Jun, 2009 from UK

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:18 am

herodotus wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:57 am
The diabolis in musica bit actually derives from the time of Guido D'Arezzo. It had less to do with church doctrine than it had to do with Pythagorean acoustic theory.
I think that's stretching the point that d'Arezzo might have been making, which was more about being careful when switching between hexachords in his solfege system in order to span an octave or more. The "devil in music" just comes from the mnemonic: "mi contra fa est diabolus in musica"

In today's solfege, the rhyme makes no sense with respect to the tritone, as mi against fa is merely a half-step (though dissonant if used together). But with mi on the hard hexachord beginning on G and fa on the natural beginning on C, it does make sense - and this is the context in which Fux mentions it in Gradus ad Parnassum.

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vurt
addled muppet weed
44343 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:36 am

BertKoor wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:01 am
Stamped Records wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:31 am
[...] the devils chord [...]
[pedantic] The tritone is just an interval, not a whole chord [/pedantic]
this is true however, "devils interval" is already in use for "satans taint" :)

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jancivil
KVRAF
18255 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:13 pm

Another significance fr. jazz is in one fell swoop substituting the 5th of a V harmony with a flat 5th turns ii-V-I into straight chromatic. The whole idea of it is to obtain the full chromatic with facility out of your normal cornball song changes. Tonicizing non-tonic changes, then...

for instance:
D F G C
Db F G B
C Eb G Bb...

Which stands to reason being in the very middle of the octave.

It looks like any seven-note scale is going to have some tritone in it.
Avoidable with less members...

tapper mike
KVRAF
5005 posts since 20 Jan, 2008

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:02 pm

I like Adam Neely's dissertation on the tritone.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR5yzCH5CsM

Not banned only rare.

Springman
KVRer
7 posts since 22 May, 2018

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:43 am

The tritone is an inherently unstable interval, yearning resolution.
Dominant tritone substitions are common in jazz.

Many famous composeres used the tritone promimently in specific works.
Check out Debussy's Prelude or Bernstein's score for "West Side Story".

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fmr
KVRAF
8689 posts since 16 Mar, 2003 from Porto - Portugal

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Mon Feb 11, 2019 10:02 am

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, from The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky). Nothing to do with devil or satan or whatever...

The "Diavolus in Musica" is a concept from the Renaissance Polyphony. The rise of the tonal system made it (the concept) obsolete.
Last edited by fmr on Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Fernando (FMR)

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jancivil
KVRAF
18255 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Mon Feb 11, 2019 11:58 am

I definitely do not support the notion of 'inherently unstable'. That is from convention and culture.

Something around 49¢ from it exists in nature; for example if you overdrive a speaker in an amplifier/speaker configuration, or open up a filter from a complex waveform it's a resonance that appears (the 11th partial). The sonority there is not 'unstable' in and of itself. The tempered intervals in resemblance are only trivially more 'tense' than this if they are.

This need to resolve is an idea out of events of a certain musical culture historically.

The opening of the Satie composition above is a good illustration of my idea there. If you hear that, that context, that sonority, that vertical aggregation, there is no particular resolution it calls for. It's planed at the intervals which form what is later stated as the 'theme' (Act I). There absolutely is no V7-I called for.

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jancivil
KVRAF
18255 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: The significance of a tritone?

Post Mon Feb 11, 2019 1:37 pm

It just sits there, repeated once in all the iterations of the idea. There is nowhere it should go, through itself.

We'd have to get into relative terms, 'stable'.
IE: the major third in 12tET is irrationally derived. Yes, it resembles 5:4 but it isn't that, it's 13.69¢ sharp. So we can say that the simpler concords are more, well, concordant.

In pythagorean terms, 81:64 [M3] is a multiplication of 3:2; 729:512 [A4] is further multiplication of that.

To compare it with the 11th partial in terms of defining stability, I don't really know what to do with that tbh.
Relative to the piano, the 11th partial is almost a quarter tone "off". But the world vibrates like this.

It may be seen that one is conditioned to take it as a dissonance, while we do not take the things in close enough proximity to the simpler concords as any such thing. But we can limit the ratio to get simpler numbers: 45:32 in 5-limit. Now we're around 2¢ closer than the Pythagorean to exactly midway through the octave.
A coincidence?
So we prefer one over the other per se? I don't think that's it.

In relative terms, an octave 2:1 is more stable than a 3:2 fifth, then? Ok, since we can't get any difference simply multiplying that (by itself), I suppose that can be a definition. In music, we don't worry about stability except past a certain point. Contextually, more complexity is bound to be described as inharmonic; so is a cymbal's physical content supposed to resolve into something? So I think we're in the realm of musical definitions with 'stable' once examined. Goals, conveyances.

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