Modulation: One-Two-Five-One

A Theory of Music

In the hierarchy of harmonic function, everything begins and ends with the tonic. It takes a certain amount of deliberate intention to set things in motion, namely in deciding how far away that first leap from the tonic will be, but there are decidedly fewer decisions to be made after that. In the previous post and in the introduction to secondary dominants, I mentioned how everything moves toward and away from the tonic at all times. That’s a pretty foggy assessment, and there are always exceptions, but I think it’s a statement worthy of further discussion. The image below illustrates a I-ii-V7-I progression as it appears in the context of the circle of fifths.

I ii V7 I circle

Looking at the circle of fifths should make it fairly obvious that pitches are not really as close to one another as we’re led to believe, like when we look at the notes on a piano…

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