Joe's Blog

Practice Procedures: Part 10: The Aesthetic Quality of a Chord By Itself Versus When Followed by Another Chord.

March 31, 2017


Putting the color blue next to the color yellow gives the blue a certain color ‘quality’, which can be different than if the same blue is put next to the red or green.  Each single color, when it is by itself, has an aesthetic (a ‘feeling’-tone, or mood) that is distinct from that of other colors.  But that quality is easily modified by it being put in an area of space adjacent to that of a second color.  Then, the aesthetic as much results from the side by side of two colors, as it is from one color or the other by itself.

The same is true of chords in music.  Only now there is no space in which to put the two chord-colors next to each other.  They can only be sequential: first one then the other.  Since both chords are not heard in the present tense combined, we are dependent on the ‘after image’ (sic) that memory provides of the previous chord when we contemplate the current chord.*   A ‘IV’ chord ensuing upon a ‘I’ chord strikes the ear as having a different mood than a ‘IV’ chord coming after a ‘i’ (minor tonic) chord.

Two different ear abilities are required of the player.  The ability to single out and pin point the exact emotional/tonal effect of a single chord.  This effect enters the mind a moment or two after the notes of the chord start sounding.  If no new chord comes after it, one can contemplate the current chord uninterrupted until its mood has taken root and blossomed in the mind.

Two chords, one after the other, must also be appreciated, aesthetically, by the ‘way’ the change of chord effects our feeling-system.  The fact that in tonal music there is only a finite set of possible pairs of chords should not inure the ear to the distinctive flavor of each such pair.

Seeking out the ‘flavor’ of a chord is an important aesthetic ability of the artist.

  • feeling the effect of an entire harmonic progression means the preservation in memory of some part of each chord into the remaining chords in the progression.



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