Can Harmony Be Non–Linear? Issues in Microtonal Composition and Perception in Response to Glenn Branca’s ‘25 Questions’

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    Can harmony be non-linear? This is the question which New York composer Glenn Branca has posed in relation to the potential for new developments in the role of harmony in contemporary music. The question will be investigated in relation to a discussion of the characteristics of more traditional conceptions of harmony. The discussion will first focus on aspects which could be considered to be ‘linear’ along with a brief survey of changing approaches to harmony in Western music history. This will be followed by a survey of possibilities for the construction of harmony based on principles of non-linearity in terms of temporal, textural and pitch elements. These possibilities will be discussed with reference to experimental compositions and compositional approaches.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
    PublisherSociety for Musicology in Ireland
    Number of pages4
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 May 2008
    EventSociety for Musicology in Ireland Annual Conference 2008 - Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland
    Duration: 5 May 2008 → …


    ConferenceSociety for Musicology in Ireland Annual Conference 2008
    Period5/05/08 → …
    Internet address

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: [1] Branca, Glenn, “The 25 Questions”
    [2] Bregman, Albert S, Auditory Scene Analysis: the Perceptual Organisation of Sound. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1990.
    [3] Dahlhous, Carl, “Harmony” from The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. ed. Stanley Sadie, 2nd edn, Vol 10, pp.858-877. Oxford University Press, 2001.
    [4] Erickson, Robert, Sound Structure in Music. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1975.
    [5] Hartmann, William, Signals, Sound Sensation Springer-Verlag, New York, 1997.
    [6] Lerdahl, Fred and Ray Jackendoff, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1983.
    [7] McAdams, Stephen, “Psychological constraints on form-bearing dimensions in music”, Contemporary Music Review, vol. 4 no.1, pp. 181-198, 1989.
    [8] McClary, Susan, “Rap, Minimalism, and Structure of Time in Late Twentieth-Century Culture” from Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, ed. Continuum, London, 2006.
    [9] Rameau, Jean-Phillipe, Treatise on harmony. trans. Philip Gossett. Dover, New York and Constable, London, 1971. (Original edn Paris, 1772).
    [10] Schenker, Heinrich, Harmony. ed. Oswald Jonas, trans. Elisabeth Mann Borgese. University of Chicago Press, 1954.
    [11] Shepard, Roger, “Pitch Perception and Measurement”, from Music, Cognition and Computerized Sound ed. Perry Cook. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1999, pp. 149-165.
    [12]Sethares, William, Tuning, Timbre, Spectrum, Scale. Springer-Verlag, London, 1999.
    [13] Snyder, Bob, Music and Memory: An Introduction. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 2000.
    [14]Tenney, James, A History of ‘Consonance’ and ‘Dissonance’. Excelsior, New York, 1988.
    [15]Tenney, James, “John Cage and the Theory of Harmony”. Originally published in Soundings 13: The Music of Jame Tenney, ed. Peter Garland, Frog Peak, Lebanon, NH, 1984.


    • harmony
    • microtonal
    • music
    • theory
    • structure
    • perception
    • non-linear
    • memory


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