Chord-Specific Scalar Material in Classical Music: An Adaptation of Jazz Chord-Scale Theory
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Jazz chord-scale theory identifies scales that can be used to embellish a particular type of chord. It has fostered the notion that chords can generate their own local scales. This idea as well as many of the scale types that jazz chord-scale theory identifies are essentially foreign to classical music theory, which instead tends to focus on the scales that represent relatively global key areas--that is, the scales that accommodate entire chord successions. Both the jazz and classical perspectives can coexist, and each can inform and supplement the other. This study explores implications of the jazz chord-scale perspective for classical music and classical music theory. The scalar notes and intervals that embellish a particular chord are referred to as chord-specific scalar material (CSSM). Following the suggestion of jazz chord-scale theory and Ramon Satyendra's chord spaces, each chordal zone can exhibit its own local tonal hierarchy potentially consisting of a local tonic note (usually a chord root), chordal notes and intervals, scalar notes and intervals, and sub-scalar notes and intervals. Focusing particularly on the scalar level of these chord-specific tonal hierarchies, CSSM is a relatively foreground phenomenon that can be understood against the backdrop of a deeper, uninterrupted scalar space that is associated with the key of the passage at hand. A chord succession can occupy the deeper scalar space while each chord is embellished with CSSM suggestive of potentially different local scalar spaces. This study considers examples of CSSM spanning the music of Bach through Fauré, and it proposes a classification of four general types of CSSM found in classical repertoire. Each type suggests a different theoretical derivation for examples of CSSM, and each type has its own implications for tonal function (both locally and globally), coherence, and color. The fourth type apparently did not emerge until the Romantic era. Special attention is given to CSSM in the music of Gabriel Fauré, who seemingly developed rather innovative CSSM techniques. Practical benefits of this theoretical approach for today's composers, improvisers, and performers are also considered. Various techniques for generating CSSM are offered, and further scalar possibilities are explored.