A major difference

A fanfare for the major triad: It’s everywhere. Apart from being the principal building block of most music, its (sometimes) dulcet tones are used in shops, stations, airports and elsewhere to alert us to announcements of impending joy or (more frequently) gloom. It has a sibling but, unlike the bright, stable major, minor is darker […]


Having made the journey from the (relatively) straightforward major triad to the tonal saturation of the twelve-note chord. From w to w perhaps we can summon up enough courage to wonder about the future of ‘art’ music. The jeremiads about ever decreasing audiences and the consequent financial problems of the music industry notwithstanding, there are […]

Partial understanding

Spectral analysis: no, not something from a Ghostbusters’ film, but a computer gizmo used by composers from the late(ish) twentieth century onwards. Every pitch we hear normally comes with its own entourage of other ghostly sounds variously called partials, overtones or harmonics. It’s mainly the predominance of a particular gang of these (let’s stick with) partials […]


Euphony, cacophony, monophony, homophony, polyphony, heterophony — musical sound has many guises. But let’s start with the basic building block: noise. Mostly it’s nasty: A sound of any kind, esp. a loud, harsh, or unpleasant one. (Oxford English Dictionary) Though it has had its good side, too: It ceas’d: yet still the sails made on A […]