An analysis is justified only if it leads closer to the content of music and its authentic interpretation. Theoretical methods show their value in that – like keys – they help to unlock hitherto unintelligible connections and thus enable us to penetrate deeper into the secret of the composition.
I have frequently discussed the question of whether relative solmization is a method or a conception? Is it suited to lead us beyond its educational purpose? If not, then its symbols proclaim their own emptiness. What is it that transforms the symbol into living material, the letter into explanation? Are we entitled to believe that a mere play with solmizating letters can be used to describe structure systems which classical theory cannot cope with?
Whereas classical harmony is bound to seven-degree diatony, in the harmonic world of Romantic and twentieth-century music the chords move within the closed sphere of 12-degree chromaticism; accordingly, the former reflects a static way of thinking, while the meaning of the latter is determined by the relationship of harmonies to one another. For within the closed sphere of the fifth-circle it is as impossible to speak of fixed points of support – or ’progress’ – as it is nonsensical to call the distance covered on a sphere (or a circle) ’progress’. For this reason the late works of Verdi or Wagner have proved to be an impregnable fortress to classical theory: they stoutly resist all attempts at analysis.
The effect of classical music lies in ’functional’ attractions, while that of Romantic music, in ’modal’ or polymodal tensions. Modality is a relative system and it is to be analyzed most naturally through the devices of relativity.
A classical melody is easily described with the devices of the figured bass (using degree-numbers and figures to indicate the arrangement of the chords). The use of the figured bass is derived from the diatonic system and is thus a completely unsuitable tool for the analysis of Romantic music. The most typical Romantic melodies exert their influence in quite a different manner! The sensory process undergone in our consciousness can be described as follows:
For each successive chord we instinctively seek an answer to the question: which is the chord that would follow according to the ’natural’ logic of music? And this we compare with the chord that in fact replaces it. The meaning of the chord will be determined by the difference in tension between the two.
The lifeblood of this music is relativity: the system of potential differences between the tonal elements, which we may with total justification call the system of modal tensions. Various pedagogical disasters have led me to recognize that Romantic music will remain the terra incognita – blank spot – of music theory, unless it is approached through the devices of relativity.
In our analyses, we treat the signs of relative solmization as mathematical symbols. (Readers unfamiliar with the principles of relative solmization, should consult the Appendix)
Each of the 12 symbols designates a musical character, and if we recognize which sign represents light or darkness, which is accompanied by a rise or a descent, which embodies a materialistic and which a spiritual experience, why the content of one is expressionistic and the other impressionistic – if in other words, through the help of signs, we can differentiate between cold and warm colours, between positive and negative tension, if we know for example that the FI lifts high and the MA hides a painful feature – if we understand all of this, then, with no more signs than are necessary to cover the tones of the chromatic scale, we shall have conquered something of the realm concealed behind the notes.
Kodály offers us a technique which covers all that one could wish an ideal theory to cover:
(a) it is easily accessible to everyone – a grounding in musicology is not required,