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Adam Ignatov
Adam Ignatov

A Tonic End

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A Tonic End

In music, the tonic is the first scale degree () of the diatonic scale (the first note of a scale) and the tonal center or final resolution tone[1] that is commonly used in the final cadence in tonal (musical key-based) classical music, popular music, and traditional music. In the movable do solfège system, the tonic note is sung as do. More generally, the tonic is the note upon which all other notes of a piece are hierarchically referenced. Scales are named after their tonics: for instance, the tonic of the C major scale is the note C.

The triad formed on the tonic note, the tonic chord, is thus the most significant chord in these styles of music. In Roman numeral analysis, the tonic chord is typically symbolized by the Roman numeral "I" if it is major and by "i" if it is minor.

In very much conventionally tonal music, harmonic analysis will reveal a broad prevalence of the primary (often triadic) harmonies: tonic, dominant, and subdominant (i.e., I and its chief auxiliaries a 5th removed), and especially the first two of these.

In music of the common practice period, the tonic center was the most important of all the different tone centers which a composer used in a piece of music, with most pieces beginning and ending on the tonic, usually modulating to the dominant (the fifth scale degree above the tonic, or the fourth below it) in between.

Two parallel keys have the same tonic. For example, in both C major and C minor, the tonic is C. However, relative keys (two different scales that share a key signature) have different tonics. For example, C major and A minor share a key signature that feature no sharps or flats, despite having different tonic pitches (C and A, respectively).

The term tonic may be reserved exclusively for use in tonal contexts while tonal center and/or pitch center may be used in post-tonal and atonal music: "For purposes of non-tonal centric music, it might be a good idea to have the term 'tone center' refer to the more general class of which 'tonics' (or tone centers in tonal contexts) could be regarded as a subclass."[4] Thus, a pitch center may function referentially or contextually in an atonal context, often acting as an axis or line of symmetry in an interval cycle.[5] The term pitch centricity was coined by Arthur Berger in his "Problems of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky".[6] According to Walter Piston, "the idea of a unified classical tonality replaced by nonclassical (in this case nondominant) centricity in a composition is perfectly demonstrated by Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune".[7]

The tonic includes four separate activities or roles as the principal goal tone, initiating event, generator of other tones, and the stable center neutralizing the tension between dominant and subdominant.

In classical music harmony, specially cadences, define the tonic. Other means, mostly rhythmic, can define the tonic. Certain melodic outlines can define a tonic too, but I think of them as implying harmony.

The tonic is the point of greatest stability in a tonality. It's "home." The starting tone of a phrase is not nearly as important and the ending tone of a phrase for defining a tonic. This makes sense as normal endings come to rest at a point of stability.

The three tonal degrees of all keys and practical modes (except Lydian) are separated by perfect fifths where the middle degree is the tonic and the fifth above is the dominant and the fifth below is the subdominant (except in Lydian.) Any melody that outlines in some way these degrees will strongly imply a tonic.

Without actually seeing your melody, just going by the list of tones and what you said about C and D re. the tonic, D as tonic makes sense because there are three tonal degrees and the melodic means to form cadential patterns and outline a tonic triad.

With a D tonic and a C natural below it instead of C# the feel will be modal. Because the sixth degree is absent you can't definitively say whether the mode is D Dorian or D Aeolian. But that isn't a problem. You can shift around to different modes without destabilizing the tonic.

This type of seizure (also called a convulsion) is what most people think of when they hear the word "seizure." An older term for this type of seizure is "grand mal." As implied by the name, they combine the characteristics of tonic and clonic seizures. Tonic means stiffening, and clonic means rhythmical jerking.

Tonic-clonic seizures, formerly known as grand mal seizures, comprise two stages: a tonic phase and a clonic phase. These intense seizures can be frightening to experience or observe, as extreme muscle spasms may temporarily arrest breathing.

When the tonic-clonic seizure begins, the person loses consciousness and may fall. Strong tonic spasms of the muscles can force air out of the lungs, resulting in a cry or moan, even though the person is not aware of their surroundings. There may be saliva or foam coming from the mouth. If the person inadvertently bites their tongue or cheek, blood may be visible in the saliva.

Gradually the person regains awareness and may feel confused, exhausted, physically sore, sad or embarrassed for a few hours. The person may not remember having a seizure, and may have other memory loss. Occasionally, people may have abnormal or combative behavior after a tonic-clonic seizure while the brain is recovering.

That final note is the tonic. And that is the psychological effect it has on us. It has a kind of gravitational pull that attracts every melody and chord progression towards it. Leaving the scale hanging on that 7th note creates a tension that resolves only when it finally moves to the tonic. In this sense, the tonic is like a sigh of relief, like coming home and sitting down after a long day at school or at work.

Having a tonic normally means that the music is based on a major or minor scale. As you know from music theory, a scale is a set of notes with a specific pattern of half steps and whole steps. The major scale, for example, is a 7-note scale with a pattern of 2 whole steps, 1 half step, 3 whole steps and 1 half step. That pattern can start on any note and it will create different major scales. Composers use scales as the main resources for melodies and chords.

So our picture of tonality is now getting clearer: tonalmusic is music that has a tonic and it normally works within the major/minor keyssystem and functional harmony. Our exploration of tonality cannot stop here,however, because there are two more fundamental elements that it influences.

This sense of coming and going to tonic can be heardeverywhere. Consider the simple tune to Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star. Starting out on tonic C, the melody skips to Gand stays there after a brief visit to its neighbour note A. It then simply returns to end on C descending one step a time through F, E and D. In other words, leaving the tonic andthen coming back to it is what guides the melody all along.

This is how the musical forms of the baroque,classical and romantic periods works. In the sonata form, for example, we getone or more themes based on the tonic key (the principal key), then we get oneor more contrasting themes in the dominant key. This is followed by thedevelopment section in which the music travels to a variety of keys using bitsand pieces of those themes we heard at the beginning. The whole thing thenfinishes with a return to the tonic.

In tonal music, dissonance carries a certain energythat looks forward towards a resolution into consonance. Dissonance is unstableand it resolves into consonance, which is stable. The simplest and mostimportant example of this is once again with the tonic and dominant polarities.

Since this chord is dissonant, it requires a resolution into a consonance. By far, the most typical resolution of the unstable dominant 7th is into the stable tonic. The root G jumps to C, the third B moves a step up (just like it does in the ascending major scale), and the 7th F typically moves a step down to E (the third of the tonic). This is how the dissonance is normally controlled and resolved in tonal music.

What is the difference between harmony and tonality? Tonality refers to music that has a tonic while harmony is the study of chords and chord progressions. Harmony is often tonal (with chord progressions based on the major and minor scales) but it can be of other types too.


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