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Guy Smiley
03-04-2007, 06:17 PM
Hey all,

Last night I was listening to a Leonard Bernstein commentary on Dvorak #9, and he was saying that one of Dvorak's melodies was a modal melody, using the aeolian mode in particular.

Why did Lenny describe it like that? Doesn't that just mean it's in a plain old minor key? Nothing too fancy about that. Or is there an important distinction he was making? He was specifically talking about the second theme in the 2nd movement (a woodwind, or maybe two, over the top of quiet tremolo strings).

Thanks

Poolman
03-06-2007, 09:05 AM
Hi Guy,

The Aeolian mode consists of the notes ABCDEFGA, unlike the key of A minor which has G#. (Please pronouce it Ee-olian, nor Ay-olian).

Here Dvorak has transposed it up a minor third so that the scale starts on C#. It's not in C# minor, which would have had B#'s; here we have B naturals (= G natural in the true mode).

Terry Dwyer

dermod
03-06-2007, 12:47 PM
It is curious just how effective that flattened seventh is. It occurs often in old music and music derived from it, for example Vaughan Williams's (and others) use of the folk tune Green Bushes.

Poolman
03-07-2007, 05:54 AM
It is curious just how effective that flattened seventh is. It occurs often in old music and music derived from it, for example Vaughan Williams's (and others) use of the folk tune Green Bushes.
Do you mean Greensleeves? That's in the Dorian mode (DEFGABCD) with chromatic alterations at cadences. VW did this deliberately because it is what the Elizabethan composers did, i.e. use the modes but change notes chromatically at cadences to make the parts move more smoothly. They used the so-called Tierce de Picardie (sharpened 3rd) at the end of every phrase because they didn't like to end on a minor chord. It was this behaviour that started the breakdown of the modal system and the inception of the modern key system.

Terry

Poolman
03-07-2007, 05:56 AM
Correction! I've just noticed that in my first post I said Dvorak transposed the Aeolian mode up a minor 3rd. It's a major 3rd, of course.

Terry

dermod
03-07-2007, 11:39 AM
Dorian mode is correct,there being no flattened sixth in the tune I had in mind. It featured in VW's English Folk Song Suite where it is attributed to the folk tune My Bonny Boy. The melody is more usually known as Green Bushes sung to an alternative set of words, and under that name was of course the basis of Percy Grainger's passacaglia. I think George Butterworth also orchestrated the tune. The melody is completely modal with no altered notes of any kind. Another striking modal melody is Bonny At Morn, from a Northumbrian collection. I was fascinated to hear almost the exact same tune on radio one morning as part of a mass setting dating from medieval Spain. How well a good tune travelled in the days before global communications.

Guy Smiley
03-07-2007, 11:06 PM
Hi Terry,

Hmm I'm confused. Natural minor and Aeolian are the same, aren't they?

So are you saying that when someone refers to a melody in a "minor" scale, it's assumed that they mean "harmonic minor"?

I'm also confused because the key signature for A minor is no sharps/flats...

Thanks

Guy Smiley
03-07-2007, 11:15 PM
It is curious just how effective that flattened seventh is. It occurs often in old music and music derived from it, for example Vaughan Williams's (and others) use of the folk tune Green Bushes.

Hmm really? I would have thought the opposite. Don't the majority of modern pop songs (the minor keyed ones) not use the raised seventh? The raised seventh sounds very, hmm, folksy?

Poolman
03-08-2007, 04:49 AM
Hi Terry,

Hmm I'm confused. Natural minor and Aeolian are the same, aren't they?

So are you saying that when someone refers to a melody in a "minor" scale, it's assumed that they mean "harmonic minor"?

I'm also confused because the key signature for A minor is no sharps/flats...

Thanks
Hi Guy,

I think the term "natural minor" can be a bit misleading. It is certainly natural in the sense that all the notes are naturals (in A minor), but natural in the sense of "that which comes naturally" only if we are thinking modally.

To think tonally, i.e. "We are in the key of A minor", G#'s must be taken as normal, not G naturals. It is often stated that the minor scale has three forms, Harmonic, Melodic Ascending and Melodic Descending. This may be true of scales, but to think in terms of key there is only one form of the scale from which we draw our chords, and that is the Harmonic. G isn't in the key, nor is F#; these are chromatic notes, to be introduced under certain carefully observed conditions.

And if by "natural minor" we mean Melodic Descending, then it certainly isn't synonymous with Aeolian, because in the Aeolian mode we would use it even when ascending.

Keys work differently from modes.

As for the key signature of A minor having no sharps, this is true, and we have to sharpen the G each time we use it. This is due to the historical evolution of key signatures. Properly, the key signature of A minor ought to be one sharp - G#. But there could be a reason we don't do that: it would be all too easy to confuse it with G major (F# in signature) at a glance. Whatever the reason, we are stuck with this anomalous system.

Yes, Guy, if someone refers to a melody in a minor key (not scale), we assume it to be the harmonic minor. Once you talk about it being in a scale, what do you say about a melody that uses all three forms of the scale as it goes along?

Terry

Poolman
03-08-2007, 05:04 AM
Dorian mode is correct,there being no flattened sixth in the tune I had in mind. It featured in VW's English Folk Song Suite where it is attributed to the folk tune My Bonny Boy. The melody is more usually known as Green Bushes sung to an alternative set of words, and under that name was of course the basis of Percy Grainger's passacaglia.
Dermod,

There is confusion here. Green Bushes and My Bonny Boy are two different tunes, both found in the same movement in the VW suite. My Bonny Boy is Dorian, but Green Bushes is Myxolydian.

Terry

dermod
03-08-2007, 05:07 AM
The relationship between folk music forms (song and dance) and classical music has always been very deep. The main departure, perhaps, came with equal temperament and the new opportunities it gave for modulation and composing in extended form. But a side effect was to enclose western music in the modern major/minor mindset. Serialism was an effort to break loose, but with limited results. Major and minor modes, versatile as they are, are still not the whole story. Large quantities of world music (for example Indian) could not be expressed in them. The modes may sound folksy today (or ecclesiastical or archaic), but I suspect there is juice in those old modes yet.

Sleutelbos
03-08-2007, 05:08 AM
if someone refers to a melody in a minor key (not scale), we assume it to be the harmonic minor.

Who's 'we'?

Skysaw
03-08-2007, 06:43 AM
Dermod,

There is confusion here. Green Bushes and My Bonny Boy are two different tunes, both found in the same movement in the VW suite. My Bonny Boy is Dorian, but Green Bushes is Myxolydian.

Terry

To add to the confusion, "Green Bushes" is not "Greensleaves," either... very different. And VW seems to have used them both at different times.

I've heard the melody (Greensleaves) played both in Aeolian and Dorian, though I've always believed the Dorian to be more "authentic." It's also pretty common to have a raised 7th as the penultimate note in the main melody.

dermod
03-08-2007, 11:47 AM
Last word on this on my part. I think the Bonny Boy attribution may be a mistake on a sleeve note of an old LP I have. However, on DigitalTradition I found the lyrics of something called Bonny Boy that would fit the Green Bushes tune. Not a point I would pursue. But as footnote, a couple of years ago I put some words suitable to advent to the Bonnie At Morn tune I mentioned and arranged it for SATB choir. It was picked up and sung a number churches both locally and in London. So the old magic works. All I need now is to get a megastar to record it, then when it reaches world number one in the charts (funnier things happen at Christmas), I might have to ask Guy Smiley to reconsider his opinion. He needn't hold his breath though. But feel free to PM me if you know any megastars.

sgainar
03-08-2007, 01:58 PM
Guy,

Generally, when the term “minor” is used to describe a scale, it’s referring to the third scale degree (i.e. scales with a minor third are considered “minor”). Because of this there are many different possible “minor” scales – some that have names and some that don’t.

In my experience/schooling “natural minor” is synonymous with the Aeolian mode as far as the specific notes. When I use the term Aeolian I’m usually referring more to the modal function and not the natural minor scale.

The minor scale with the raised 7th (harmonic minor) was used very often during the “common practice period” – it was the minor scale. Today the harmonic minor is still viewed as the “minor” scale by many depending on their experience/training, etc.

I never like to dwell on the terminology – it’s ultimately the sound that’s important. But the terminology is necessary for communication, instruction, etc. This definitely can be confusing. Hope this helps.

Scott

Guy Smiley
03-09-2007, 12:27 AM
Wow ok. I find it crazy that I've played piano for, well, decades, and I never knew the "default" minor scale was the one with the raised 7th (or is it more proper to say "natural" 7th? :) )

Though I think the source of my confusion is that I grew up playing/listening to modern pop/rock music, and I'm gonna venture to guess that in that genre, the songs in a natural minor outnumber the songs in a harmonic minor 5 to 1. Am I right?

sgainar
03-09-2007, 12:53 PM
Guy,

A few clarifications: The natural minor scale is the “default” minor scale you speak of. I would call the natural minor scale with the raised 7th “harmonic minor”.

The natural 7th is not the same as a raised 7th (I don’t want you to be confused here – the natural 7th is the 7th suggested by the key signature, the raised 7th is noted within the body of music with an accidental).

My previous post was basically agreeing with your original understanding of the minor scales. I was trying to say that experience and/or style of music does sometimes change the terminology/assumptions used (when I was in school, knee deep in scores from the Baroque and Classical period, I definitely would have assumed “raised 7th” if someone mentioned minor).

As you noted the natural minor is way more common in pop/rock music. Some types of Jazz use all the various minor scales and modal variations regularly… and there’s always Yngwie Malmsteen with his shredding harmonic minor based guitar solos.

I think Lenny may have referenced the scale as “Aeolian” because after getting that raised 7th (harmonic minor) sound in your head, the natural minor can have a modal sound quality to it.

Best,

Scott

jesshmusic
03-09-2007, 01:20 PM
The only time the seventh should be raised, usually but not always is when it is the leading tone.

And the melodic can be found in music being alter up and down.

dpc
03-11-2007, 10:37 AM
The whole idea of modes (moods) is that they are not conventional key centers so it's a bit spurious to try and force them into that. Regardless of key center a composer can employ any mode for desired effect. To talk about a certain mode and then talk about raising or lowering an element is to discard the mode or at least a pure modal approach.

Bernstein called it exactly right in identifying the modal characteristic of a melody with no need of key identification or attendant scales.