Monday, December 13, 2004

Sextus Augmentum!

No, "Sextus Augmentum" isn't something they do on "Extreme Makeover." It's a magical musical spell for augumented sixths.

Perhaps I've internalized the Harry Potter thing a wee bit too much. But it always seems to help me if I can superimpose some sort of fiction over the reality of what I'm learning. It makes concepts easier to understand and remember. And it gives life to the nuts and bolts of things.

In music theory, I think of different techniques and concepts as "spells"--you know, those little one- and two-word commands Harry gives when he points his magic wand at something. "Accio Firebolt!" will summon his Firebolt (broom) because "Accio" is the summoning spell.

Well, I have spells for music theory. "Secundus Domino!" is the "secondary dominant" spell. It's like magic. You throw a secondary dominant into an otherwise bland chord progression (Secundus Domino!), and the progression suddenly gains zing and warmth and beauty. "Chordus Ninthus!" adds a ninth to an existing seventh chord, giving it a jazzy, restless, lovely sound. "Circulo Progressio!" is to incorporate a circle progression, which adds this clean sense of order and progression towards closure.

So, it's silly, but, to me, these techniques really are like magic. Perhaps this is because I'm a relative newcomer to the wonderful world of music theory. The techniques just make the music come alive, even more alive than it already was. I can take an uninspired-sounding melody from the theory exercises--or make up one myself--and, using these "spells" as a starting point, create something of beauty. Without even really trying.

Of course, I am trying. I'm having to learn the spells. And I'm a long way from knowing them well enough that I can just apply them without thinking about it. So, for the time being, it really does seem like magic.

So I learned a new concept on Friday at music theory: augmented sixths. You basically use them as a way of approaching a V chord from an inverted vi chord. Turns out there are several variations on the plain old sixth in a vi-V progression:

The Italian Sixth (Sextus Italus!)

The German Sixth (Sextus Germanicus!)

The French Sixth (Sextus Gallicus!)

(My apologies to Latin scholars ... I don't know much Latin and am getting the "spells" with the help of an English-to-Latin dictionary I found on the internet.)

And that's what I'm going to spend my lunch hour doing. Practicing the Sextus spells.

Does anyone know a spell for making the lunch hour hurry up and get here? And then making it last for three hours instead of one?

Hurry-O, Lunch-O! Pianokeysio!

Are we there yet?

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