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 […]


Not all dissonances come with an – albeit slight, in some cases – whiff of diabolic sulphur; some have been fully integrated into polite society. Here’s a case in point: the dominant seventh (known as V7 for short). It can be encountered anywhere from staid Lutheran gatherings in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche through to rather louche evenings in […]

Cluster chords

Anyone who has heard a small child let loose on a keyboard will know exactly what a cluster chord is. Palms, fists, forearms and even shoulders are brought into play to produce a glorious – for the child, at least – cacophony. Sophisticates that we are, we adults tend to look down on this jolly activity; and, […]


What’s an appoggiatura? It comes (obviously) from Italian; appoggiare means to lean upon, to rest. It is (or was) frequently shown by a note of smaller size. Here’s an appoggiatura: it sounds like this… w Notice that it moves from stressed discord… w … to unstressed concord… w The tension produced by emphasising this dissonant clash has been […]

Key elements

Modulation:  The action or process of passing from one key to another in the course of a piece of music; the result of this, as an element in the harmony of a piece; a change of key. (OED) Cadence: The conclusion or ‘close’ of a musical movement or phrase. (OED) If you feel a sudden […]