Fourthright Forthright

Harmony was, for several centuries, dominated by the interval of the third. But, by the end of the nineteenth century with the freeing up of the ‘rules’ that governed the use of dissonance, composers had started to make their music out of other materials, and a significant number of new works were written around the interval of a fourth (aka quartal harmony – as distinct from tertian).

The list of composers who used  this new harmonic resource is long and features a large number of the luminaries of the early twentieth century (Mahler, Schönberg, Ravel, Debussy, Bartók, Hindemith, Berg, Janáček).

Here are two well-known examples: Alexander Scriabin’s so-called ‘mystic chord’ and the horn call (a pile of fourths) that opens Schönberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1:


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