chapter  13
13 Pages

Tonal Transgressions II

Plurality and Implication
WithTimothy Cutler

A tonal work should gravitate around one tonic triad, just as the planets in our solar system gravitate around a single sun. A musical work with two or more gravitational focal points of equal force would seemingly produce an inextricable tension between competing centers, one that is antithetical to a tonal work’s desire to achieve total resolution upon completion. Various terms have been used to describe music that displays two or more tonal centers of equal influence, including “key-shifting compositions,” “progressive tonality,” “dual-key tonality,” “tonal pairing,” “double-tonic complex,” “evolving tonality,” “wandering tonality,” “wavering tonality,” “bifocal tonality,” and “directional tonality.” A curious work by Johannes Brahms utilizes a comparable enharmonic relationship, but due to its constantly shifting key centers and overall brevity its manifestation of tonality is more enigmatic than Rimsky-Korsakov’s Concerto. Despite its ever-changing key centers, the roots of the canon’s opening and concluding harmonies are enharmonically equivalent.