The Evolution of Harmony Explained in Five Minutes (Video)

If you are vaguely familiar with the history of jazz, you are aware that its roots stem from early Ragtime music of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Ragtime and the blues laid the foundation for development and progressive sophistication of jazz harmony for many subsequent decades .

Harmonically, the music of ragtime was very simple compared to what composers were doing in the classical world of music at the same time.  (ex. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was premiered in 1913)

Basic minor and major triads, diminished chords, and 4 note dominant 7th chords were the main harmonic vocabulary of Ragtime and swing music that followed.

It wasn’t until Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, and Dizzy came on the scene that things started to change and harmonic choices became more sophisticated than ever before.

But if jazz has its roots in triads and 7th chords, and classical music was already harmonically complex and sophisticated at the end of the 19th century, how did we get there and what made it all possible?

To answer that question, view the video below to learn how our tonal system evolved.  In less than five minutes, Leonard Bernstein explains the harmonic evolution of western music and the ONE  musical relationship that makes it possible for composers and arrangers to never run out of choices for harmonizing and arranging melodies.

It call can be summed up in one word:  Tonicization

Check this out, its fascinating how simple he makes it!

In music, tonicization is the treatment of a pitch other than the overall tonic as a temporary tonic in a composition. A tonicized chord is a chord to which a secondary dominant progresses. For example, if chord ii comes after V/ii (read: five of two), then ii has been tonicized.

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