Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

6/1/2016 - 7/31/2016

Funding Totals

$6,000.00 (approved)
$6,000.00 (awarded)

Modality and Tonality in English, French, German, and Italian Vernacular Songs, 1590-1620

FAIN: FT-248850-16

Megan Kaes Long
Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH 44074-1057)

Preparation of a book on western European music and the transition from the church modes to the major and minor system, 17th-19th centuries.

The transition from the modal system of pitch organization that governed Western art music through the late Renaissance (ca. 1600) to the tonal system that defines music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has been a vexing problem for music scholars for the past fifty years or more. My in-progress monograph explores the role of an often overlooked repertoire of secular partsongs in this transition. I argue that popular, widely circulated vernacular song of Italy, England, Germany and France contributed substantially to musical change from the late 1590s through the 1620s. Completion of the manuscript requires that I see many of the musical sources in person; many critical sources are housed in the British Library in London, the Staats und Universit├Ątsbibliothek Hamburg, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. I seek NEH support for travel to these collections, transcription and analysis of the sources, and incorporation of new findings into the monograph.

Associated Products

Hearing Homophony: Tonal Expectation at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century (Book)
Title: Hearing Homophony: Tonal Expectation at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century
Author: Megan Kaes Long
Abstract: The question of tonality's origins in music's pitch content has long vexed many scholars of music theory. However, tonality is not ultimately defined by pitch alone, but rather by pitch's interaction with elements like rhythm, meter, phrase structure, and form. Hearing Homophony investigates the elusive early history of tonality by examining a constellation of late-Renaissance popular songs which flourished throughout Western Europe at the turn of the seventeenth century. Megan Kaes Long argues that it is in these songs, rather than in more ambitious secular and sacred works, that the foundations of eighteenth century style are found. Arguing that tonality emerges from features of modal counterpoint - in particular, the rhythmic, phrase structural, and formal processes that govern it - and drawing on the arguments of theorists such as Dahlhaus, Powers, and Barnett, she asserts that modality and tonality are different in kind and not mutually exclusive. Using several hundred homophonic partsongs from Italy, Germany, England, and France, Long addresses a historical question of critical importance to music theory, musicology, and music performance. Hearing Homophony presents not only a new model of tonality's origins, but also a more comprehensive understanding of what tonality is, providing novel insight into the challenging world of seventeenth-century music.
Year: 2020
Primary URL:
Secondary URL:
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780190851903
Copy sent to NEH?: No