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Tonic Prolongation

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I'm trying to understand tonic prolongation. What is it and what is it used for?

 

I've read that you can prolong the tonic with the submediant chord (are there other chords that can prolong the tonic?), but I don't know why. If you follow a tonic chord with a submediant then aren't you on the submediant chord now and no longer the tonic?

 

 

I know that V and vii both have a dominant function that wan to resolve to tonic, and I know that IV and ii have a predominant function and want to move toward a dominant chord, so is it similar? Could I say that the I and VI chords have a tonic function?

 

But yeah, what is it, what is it used for, and what other chords can prolong the tonic?

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Function is not tied to the scale degrees, function is determined through the manner in which the chord interacts with the chords around it. The three main functions are tonic, subdominant, and dominant. The mediant can function as a tonic because you can see it as a 7 chord with an omitted root. Or, you can see the mediant as a subdominant 6 chord. How you will analyze the chord will depend on the larger progression.

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I'm not sure what there really is to talk about....'tonic prolongation' is....tonic prolongation. It's done by prolonging. The tonic. 

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I'm not sure what there really is to talk about....'tonic prolongation' is....tonic prolongation. It's done by prolonging. The tonic. 

 

Did you intend for this reply to help or make me feel like an idiot?

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Did you intend for this reply to help or make me feel like an idiot?

 

The first one by doing the second one ;). I was hoping to make you realize that you were over thinking it. Anything can work in certain contexts, all that matters where 'tonic prolongation' is concerned, is that you successfully create the feeling of it. As far as chords, my favorite are the borrowed minor iv, chords a 3rd away from other keys, and chords a tritone away. Late 19th century/Early 20th century Russian composers loved doing this kind of thing. 

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Guest Kibbletime

in addition to what have been said, prolongation is not only restricted to extensions and chords with common tones. prolongation just means the opposite of progression. i'd call the I - VI - I prolongation a I instead of a progression with tonic function by the same principle a cadential 64 followed by a V can be called an elaborated V. because of the tempo or the lack of rhythmic emphasis the other chords and incidental notes tend to simply be heard as ornamental.

example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=MRFGIUN2MLA#t=209s
it's just an extended prolongation of the tonic of the section from this point on. the augmented chords and V7 are merely results of passing tones within the arpeggio melody.

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To elaborate further, you can think of chords in one of two ways. The first would be structural chords, which begin and end phrases (hence, they are found at cadences). The second would be prolongational chords, which embellish or prolong structural chords, delaying the cadence until an appropriate moment.

 

Normally (in the Classical style), I and vi would be considered tonic function, V and vii dominant function, and IV and ii predominant function. Because I and vi are from the same category in your example, they are an instance of a tonic prolongation (there is no change in function, no effective harmonic motion, and therefore no cadence). Other examples would be: I IV I (where the IV chord acts not as a predominant but rather as a neighboring chord) and I V I at the beginning of a phrase (not the cadence), where the V is usually inverted.

 

Like Phrygian Queen suggested, though, function is not always tied to scale degrees. For instance, there are passages where, say, V is the prevailing harmony and I acts as a neighboring chord to the V (much like the I IV I progression discussed above) - a dominant prolongation. Other chords may serve as prolongational chords, as well.

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A tonic pedal or a drone (tonic + dominant) can also be seen as tonic prolongation.

 

Those devices are often used in the statement of themes or part of them; in contrast to transitional or developmental passages....

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To elaborate further, you can think of chords in one of two ways. The first would be structural chords, which begin and end phrases (hence, they are found at cadences). The second would be prolongational chords, which embellish or prolong structural chords, delaying the cadence until an appropriate moment.

 

Normally (in the Classical style), I and vi would be considered tonic function, V and vii dominant function, and IV and ii predominant function. Because I and vi are from the same category in your example, they are an instance of a tonic prolongation (there is no change in function, no effective harmonic motion, and therefore no cadence). Other examples would be: I IV I (where the IV chord acts not as a predominant but rather as a neighboring chord) and I V I at the beginning of a phrase (not the cadence), where the V is usually inverted.

 

Like Phrygian Queen suggested, though, function is not always tied to scale degrees. For instance, there are passages where, say, V is the prevailing harmony and I acts as a neighboring chord to the V (much like the I IV I progression discussed above) - a dominant prolongation. Other chords may serve as prolongational chords, as well.

 

Still not understanding this 100%

What I'm getting is that the tonic is prolonged, but other chords can be thrown in as neighboring and passing chords to give some variety during the prolongation?

Also, the phrase as a whole should be considered tonic, not the individual chords within the phrase.

and

IV and V are considered neighboring chords to I because even though the roots are a 5th and 4th away, the notes within the chords neighbor notes within the tonic chord.

(In IV, 4 neighbors 3, 6 neighbors 5) (In V, 7 neighbors 1, 2 neighbors 3)

 

Is that correct?

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Still not understanding this 100%

What I'm getting is that the tonic is prolonged, but other chords can be thrown in as neighboring and passing chords to give some variety during the prolongation?

Also, the phrase as a whole should be considered tonic, not the individual chords within the phrase.

and

IV and V are considered neighboring chords to I because even though the roots are a 5th and 4th away, the notes within the chords neighbor notes within the tonic chord.

(In IV, 4 neighbors 3, 6 neighbors 5) (In V, 7 neighbors 1, 2 neighbors 3)

 

Is that correct?

 

No, I'm pretty sure you got everything wrong.

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To elaborate further, you can think of chords in one of two ways. The first would be structural chords, which begin and end phrases (hence, they are found at cadences). The second would be prolongational chords, which embellish or prolong structural chords, delaying the cadence until an appropriate moment.

 

Normally (in the Classical style), I and vi would be considered tonic function, V and vii dominant function, and IV and ii predominant function. Because I and vi are from the same category in your example, they are an instance of a tonic prolongation (there is no change in function, no effective harmonic motion, and therefore no cadence). Other examples would be: I IV I (where the IV chord acts not as a predominant but rather as a neighboring chord) and I V I at the beginning of a phrase (not the cadence), where the V is usually inverted.

 

Like Phrygian Queen suggested, though, function is not always tied to scale degrees. For instance, there are passages where, say, V is the prevailing harmony and I acts as a neighboring chord to the V (much like the I IV I progression discussed above) - a dominant prolongation. Other chords may serve as prolongational chords, as well.

Hey im fascinated about one of the things you stated here. You say you can look at chords in basically 2 ways, the functional ones and the ones that embellish the functional ones. Does this mean that any chord other then the tonic, subdominant or dominant serves as embellishment? And i remember reading about the fact that there are 3 groups of functions which contains all chords of the scale. How then can you use embeleshiment chords? Sorry for my ignorance, I am studying composition by myself.

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Still not understanding this 100%

What I'm getting is that the tonic is prolonged, but other chords can be thrown in as neighboring and passing chords to give some variety during the prolongation?

Also, the phrase as a whole should be considered tonic, not the individual chords within the phrase.

and

IV and V are considered neighboring chords to I because even though the roots are a 5th and 4th away, the notes within the chords neighbor notes within the tonic chord.

(In IV, 4 neighbors 3, 6 neighbors 5) (In V, 7 neighbors 1, 2 neighbors 3)

 

Is that correct?

 

Basically yes; in other words, in a given passage of music, certain chords are prolonged by other chords via neighboring, passing, or pedal motions in the bass.

 

Erm... be careful how you use the word "phrase." I think you meant to say "chord progression" (or something similar), since the word "phrase" implies that at least two harmonic functions (tonic and dominant) are present and functional (not just a single prolongation of the tonic). Actually, the answer to this question is a little complicated, since some chords can prolong chords that are already prolonging other chords; in other words, you can have multiple equally important layers of prolongation within a single passage of music. Because of this, I would say yes and no. The individual chords do matter, but sometimes you have to understand that they belong to a larger unit.

 

You're on the right track. However, practically any harmony is connected to another through stepwise relations between pitches. I would say the biggest factor in determining how a chord functions is by looking at the bass. For instance, V usually acts as a prolongational chord when the bass moves in a neighboring motion to I (do-ti-do) or passing motion (do-re-mi). In the case of IV, however, the root position IV can be considered an extension of I-IV64-I, where the bass acts as a pedal for the duration of the IV64 (do-do-do) (this is a special case).

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Hey im fascinated about one of the things you stated here. You say you can look at chords in basically 2 ways, the functional ones and the ones that embellish the functional ones. Does this mean that any chord other then the tonic, subdominant or dominant serves as embellishment? And i remember reading about the fact that there are 3 groups of functions which contains all chords of the scale. How then can you use embeleshiment chords? Sorry for my ignorance, I am studying composition by myself.

 

(Sorry for the double post; I haven't quite figured out how to multiquote...)

 

Hmm... I suppose I was actually talking about two different ways of classifying chords. I believe the three groups of functions you mentioned refer to the tonic, subdominant, and dominant categories of chords. The two ways you can look at chords (as structural or embellishing chords), then, are semi-unrelated to these three categories. What I mean by this is that all three types of chords (tonic, subdominant, and dominant harmonies) can act as either structural or embellishing chords, depending on their progression and inversion. (Although you could create another category for chords like IV which would normally function as predominants but sometimes act otherwise; in this case, they would be referred to as "subdominant neighbors" and would be embellishing chords, not structural chords.) Does this make sense?

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(Sorry for the double post; I haven't quite figured out how to multiquote...)

 

Hmm... I suppose I was actually talking about two different ways of classifying chords. I believe the three groups of functions you mentioned refer to the tonic, subdominant, and dominant categories of chords. The two ways you can look at chords (as structural or embellishing chords), then, are semi-unrelated to these three categories. What I mean by this is that all three types of chords (tonic, subdominant, and dominant harmonies) can act as either structural or embellishing chords, depending on their progression and inversion. (Although you could create another category for chords like IV which would normally function as predominants but sometimes act otherwise; in this case, they would be referred to as "subdominant neighbors" and would be embellishing chords, not structural chords.) Does this make sense?

Thnx for your reply. Yes it does make sence. I do have another related question though. There is for example this piece I listen to, and it uses the following progression for a first phrase : Gminor - Bb/ F - E half dim. I love this because there is this bass going down and the upper voices more or less stay the same. The thing is, the melody makes me think about Tonic(Gm), dominant, tonic, becaue I clearly hear a cadence there. Is this because the tonic- dominant is being emballished by this progression? Not sure if you can answer me, seeing I havent given you the melody. The line of the melody is Bb- A- F# - G.

Thnx alot for your patience.

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No problem... I'm always glad to help. :)

 

However, I'm not sure how your piece fits into the harmonic tradition I'm explaining (right now I'm trying to make sense of the E half-diminished chord in what I assume is G minor, and I can't quite tell how your melody fits in with the harmony); I'd have to listen to the composition to see how everything fits together. Do you perhaps have a link to a recording on YouTube, or a score I can read? Or perhaps just the name of the piece?

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No problem... I'm always glad to help. :)

 

However, I'm not sure how your piece fits into the harmonic tradition I'm explaining (right now I'm trying to make sense of the E half-diminished chord in what I assume is G minor, and I can't quite tell how your melody fits in with the harmony); I'd have to listen to the composition to see how everything fits together. Do you perhaps have a link to a recording on YouTube, or a score I can read? Or perhaps just the name of the piece?

Hey, yeah here is the link on youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56Pn42_thFs.

It starts on minute 2:14. This is the part after modulating to G minor. 

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Hey, yeah here is the link on youtube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56Pn42_thFs.

It starts on minute 2:14. This is the part after modulating to G minor. 

 

Thanks for the link; I think I understand now. Actually, the type of harmonic theory that we've been discussing is probably better suited to analyzing Classical-era music than this style, since this type of music seems more chromatic and its harmonies more linear than those of most Classical music (from what I can tell, so far). That being said, there are some things than can be discussed in the same terms, since the two styles remain very similar in many aspects. What's interesting is that I don't hear it the same way; I hear the cadence a few measures later and understand all those harmonies--the gm, dm, and edim--to be linear harmonies embellishing the descending line in the bass from the tonic, gm, to the dominant at the cadence, DM. Very beautiful, though. :)

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Thanks for the link; I think I understand now. Actually, the type of harmonic theory that we've been discussing is probably better suited to analyzing Classical-era music than this style, since this type of music seems more chromatic and its harmonies more linear than those of most Classical music (from what I can tell, so far). That being said, there are some things than can be discussed in the same terms, since the two styles remain very similar in many aspects. What's interesting is that I don't hear it the same way; I hear the cadence a few measures later and understand all those harmonies--the gm, dm, and edim--to be linear harmonies embellishing the descending line in the bass from the tonic, gm, to the dominant at the cadence, DM. Very beautiful, though. :)

Yes it is a beautiful piece. I also hear the final cadence the measures after, only I was trying to see what this first part of the melody would be in more basic harmony. So when you would harmonise it with Tonic and Dominant in Gm, the melody would still work(just not really that beautiful as in the piece). And then you would have that F# note as your leading tone to G right? I was wondering if this could help me understand the chord progression better because then I would look at the progression more like an embalishment and that it derives from these fundamental functions , tonic and dominant. I dont know. I would want to have a more functional knowledge of harmony because else it gets so blurry for me. So, you see this first frase in tonic, and resolving with the second frase to the dominant?

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Well, take the first few measures (this is what I hear, roughly):

 

2ithtt5.png

The chord progression seems to be: Gm, Dm/F, Edim, Fr+6, Bb/D, Adim/C, GM/B, D(/F#, then D). These harmonies form a progression of harmonies based more on the linear motion of the bass (its stepwise descent) than a traditional pattern of functional harmonies. It would seem that the primary structural harmonies (according to Classical-era traditions) are those at the beginning and end of the passage, I (tonic) and V (dominant). The other harmonies are linear harmonies, embellishing chords that are formed by linear (stepwise) patterns in the bass (and other voices). These chords don't always fit into the three functional categories we discussed (vi should be a minor chord in the tonic category, for example, not a diminished triad); nor do they necessarily follow traditional functional progressions (predominant->dominant->tonic). In this piece, then, the Dm/F would appear to be a non-functional minor V chord, the Edim would be a non-functional diminished vi, the Fr+6 doesn't fit into any functional category (predominant, dominant, or tonic), the Bb/D chord's primary function is to connect other linear harmonies (although, as III in the minor mode, you might consider it a tonic chord), and the Adim/C harmony (a iio6 chord) doesn't resolve to dominant harmony as it should, unless you consider the GM/B to be an altered version of a cadential 6/4 chord (a purely embellishing harmony that resolves to V at the end of the phrase). And yes, the F# in m.4 would lead to G (in the next measure), since it acts as a leading tone within dominant harmony. Hopefully this helps?

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Ah you have written it out, nice! It helps a lot already seeing someone else's viewpoint. And obviously you have more knowledge about this than I do, but knowing that they are non functional harmonies doesnt help me understand how I could use something like this in my own composition. The first time I checked out this phrase I heard something like (Gm:G-Bb-D), (Bb with F in bass:F-F-Bb-D) and (E half dim:E-Bb-D -G) for the first 3 chords. And the Gm and E half dim. would then have the 3 chord tones of Gm in common. And the second chord just the Bb and D note. The fact that those harmonies have so much in common could support the idea of this part of the phrase being in tonic right? when we would take out the harmony and just put a progression like tonic, dominant, tonic under that line, then we would have the basic form of that part of the phrase.

So then like you said the chords are embelisshing and not functional. But they support the functions even so right? Im curious what you think. Because like this I would see it in a more logic way of how perhaps the composer came up with this.

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