Synthetic scale


Synthetic scale

In music, synthetic scale is a scale which has been derived, often from a traditional diatonic scale such as the major scale ["Synthetic Musical Scales". Author(s): J. Murray Barbour. Source: "The American Mathematical Monthly", Vol. 36, No. 3, (Mar., 1929), pp. 155-160.] , or synthesized and from which further pitch collections may be derived. These synthetic combinations of notes arranged in the pattern of a scale often serve, or can theoretically be considered to serve, as the basic melodic and/or harmonic material for a passage of music. It could be almost any combination of such notes that a composer chooses, although a few synthetic scales have become relatively popular, and some have acquired names of their own.

Examples include the whole tone and octatonic scales, the Lydian dominant scale, any of Olivier Messiaen's 7 Modes of limited transposition, the scale derived from Alexander Scriabin's mystic chord, and the Hungarian Minor and Double Harmonic scales (which are different modes of the each other).

The term is less applied to the standard pentatonic scale, since it is just a subset of an ordinary major scale or Ionian mode, although it could with some justification be regarded as a type of synthetic scale, since the smaller number of available notes does result in the scale being treated more in the manner of a synthetic scale than a traditional major scale. This is largely because the defining characteristic of a major scale, the dominant 7th chord, is not available in the pentatonic scale, which forces the composer to treat the scale material in other ways which more resemble the treatment often used in synthetic scales - that is, forming chords out of available notes combined in unorthodox ways (from the point of view of traditional major or minor keys).

Note that some synthetic scales are derived from very ancient folk-music idioms, and, despite the literal meaning of "synthetic", it does not necessarily imply that the scale in question has been artificially designed by the composer (although sometimes it has been). Other synthetic scales, such as the octatonic, have grown naturally from the increasing chromaticism of late-19th-century music, and came to be regarded as a new scale in their own right. For instance, the octatonic scale probably evolved from increasing decorations of an ordinary diminished-7th chord, which has been a standard chord from before the time of J. S. Bach. Regardless of these varying origins of synthetic scales, some synthetic in the literal sense and some not, the basic meaning of "synthetic scale" is just that of a scale other than an ecclesiastical mode or a major or minor scale, and, because of its difference from a major or minor scale, requiring non-traditional treatment to some degree.

Many jazz composers and 20th-century classical composers have written parts of compositions, or even occasionally entire compositions, based on one or more synthetic scales. Scriabin was particularly noted for doing this in the latter half of his career, and was one of the first composers to do this extensively - and, contrary to comments often read in reviews or commentaries, he used a range of different scales, and did not always use the one scale derived from his mystic chord. The all-too-often-repeated claim (sometimes by reputable commentators one would think would know better) that Scriabin's late music is based on his mystic chord or Prometheus scale is grossly oversimplified, if not downright untrue, as an examination of a range of his later scores will clearly show: his mystical chord is actually somewhat rare in his music, other than in "Prometheus: The Poem of Fire" - and even then, it rarely appears in the exact arrangement so often seen in articles about Scriabin's harmony, arranged all in 4th intervals.

ources


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Synthetic chord — A synthetic chord is a made up or non traditional chord which cannot be analyzed in terms of traditional music theory or harmonic analysis. If a composer uses a synthetic scale as the basis for a passage of music and makes up chords out of some… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic fuel — or synfuel is any liquid fuel obtained from coal, natural gas, or biomass. It can sometimes refer to fuels derived from other solids such as oil shale, tar sand, waste plastics, or from the fermentation of biomatter. It can also (less often)… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic biology — is a new area of biological research that combines science and engineering. It encompasses a variety of different approaches, methodologies, and disciplines with a variety of definitions. What they all have in common, however, is that they see… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic aperture radar — (SAR) is a form of radar in which the highly directional (and thus very large) rotating antenna used by conventional radar is replaced with many low directivity small stationary antenna positions scattered over some area near or around the target …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic vision — Systems (SVS) are a set of technologies that provide pilots with clear and intuitive means of understanding their flying environment.Synthetic Vision was developed by NASA and the U.S. Air Force in the late 1970s and 1980s in support of advanced… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic modes — are modes that are not clearly derived from the major scale. Whereas the seven major modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian) are all based around the major scale and therefore can coincide with each other (i.e.… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic genomics — is a nascent field of synthetic biology that uses aspects of genetic modification on pre existing life forms with the intent of producing some product or desired behavior on the part of the life form so created. Synthetic genomics is unlike… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic setae — emulate the setae found on the toes of a gecko and scientific research in this area is driven towards the development of dry adhesives. Geckos have no difficulty mastering vertical walls and are apparently capable of adhering themselves to just… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic diamond — Synthetic diamonds of various colors grown by the high pressure high temperature technique Synthetic diamond is diamond produced in a technological process; as opposed to natural diamond, which is created in geological processes. Synthetic… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic language — A synthetic language, in linguistic typology, is a language with a high morpheme per word ratio. This linguistic classification is largely independent of morpheme usage classifications (such as fusional, agglutinative, etc.), although there is a… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.