A Chord in Time: The Evolution of the Augmented Sixth from by Mark Ellis

By Mark Ellis

for hundreds of years, the augmented 6th sonority has interested composers and intrigued track analysts. the following, Dr Mark Ellis provides a chain of musical examples illustrating the 'evolution' of the augmented 6th and the altering contexts within which it may be discovered. unusually, the sonority emerged from one of many final remnants of modal counterpoint to outlive into the tonal period: the Phrygian Cadence. within the Baroque interval, the 'terrible dissonance' used to be almost always linked to destructive textual imagery. Charpentier defined the augmented 6th as 'poignantly expressive'. J. S. Bach thought of an incidence of the chord in a single of his forebear's motets 'remarkably bold'. in the course of Bach's composing lifetime, the augmented 6th developed from a comparatively infrequent chromaticism to a virtually usual aspect in the tonal spectrum; the chord displays specific chronological and stylistic strata in his tune. Theorists started carefully to just accept the chord, yet its inversional percentages proved rather contentious, as commentaries via writers as various as Muffat, Marpurg and Rousseau demonstrate. through the eighteenth century, the augmented 6th turned more and more major in instrumental repertoires - it was once possibly Vivaldi who first liberated the chord from its destructive textual institutions. through the later eighteenth century, the chord started to functionality nearly as a 'signpost' to point very important structural limitations inside sonata shape. The chord didn't, in spite of the fact that, solely lose its darker undertone: it indicates, for instance, the topic of revenge in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Romantic composers exposed far-reaching tonal ambiguities inherent within the augmented 6th. Chopin's Nocturnes usually look beguilingly easy, however the floor tranquillity mask the composer's strikingly unique harmonic experiments. Wagner's much-analyzed 'Tristan Chord' resolves (according to a couple theorists) on an augmented 6th. In Tristan und Isolde, the chord's mercurial

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