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“Modulate! modulate! modulate! but do not change the key.” The development and transformation of the term modulation in the 19th-century French theory

Nikola Komatović orcid id ; University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna

Puni tekst: engleski pdf 527 Kb

str. 517-526

preuzimanja: 443



Historical sources recount an anecdote about a class on organ improvisation taught by the already renowned composer and organist César Franck (1822 – 1890) and attended by young Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918) in the 1880s. According to this testimony, Franck persistently kept telling his young, self-assured student to “Modulate! Modulate! Modulate!’ (‘Modulez! Modulez! Modulez!’); Debussy stubbornly refused to do so, asking his teacher why he wanted him to do that (‘Mais pourquoui voulez-vous que je module’) and professing that he felt very comfortable in the starting tone (‘je me trouve très bien dans ce ton-là’). Of course, the representatives of two different generations had misunderstood each other, but the nature of their misunderstanding remains unclear: was it a matter of style and esthetics or merely terminology? The term modulation is today unambiguously identified with the process of switching from one key to another. However, in the 19th-century French theoretical literature (as well as in European literature in general), the term experienced a long evolution: in line with older discussions in the period of Enlightenment, it was first seen as a much wider concept – a way of tonal manifestation (e.g. in the works of François-Joseph Fétis and Jérôme-Joseph de Momigny) until it later began to acquire its modern paradigmatic features, for example in Anton Reicha’s Course in Musical Composition (Cours de composition musicale). However, even after modulation became synonymous with changing the tonal center, some younger theorists still insisted that the term could be used in a wider sense (Napoléon Henri Reber’s Treatise on Harmony/Traité d’harmonie). This paper aims to present the paradigmatic evolution of the term modulation and show that different modern categorizations of tonal changes have roots in its earlier meanings. Hence, one of its aims is to attempt to infer if the abovementioned misunderstanding reflected an esthetic or merely a theoretical and terminological dissension between a composer educated in the first half of the 19th century and his several decades’ younger colleague.

Ključne riječi

modulation, 19<sup>th </sup> century, French music theories, tonality, harmony

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Podaci na drugim jezicima: hrvatski

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