The Dynamics of Harmony: Principles & Practice

The Dynamics of Harmony: Principles & Practice

The Dynamics of Harmony: Principles & Practice

The Dynamics of Harmony: Principles & Practice


This is a readable and imaginative book presenting, with infectious enthusiasm, a sensible simplification of the main processes of classical harmony in the Bach-Schubert period. Pratt's explanations of concepts such as "real" and "substitute" chords, of false distinctions between "major" and "minor" and of the simple basis of seemingly complex chromatic harmony enables readers to grasp the principles of harmonic progression, and to see most progressions as a form of "dominant-powered" movement. He focuses his study on Bach chorales, Mozart piano sonatas, and a Schubert song cycle, thereby providing depth, variety, and a realistic sense of a context of "real music" to his explanations and to the exercises. But he also offers the reader an immediate invitation to apply the same principles to an immense range of musical literature from Monteverdi to Scott Joplin.


This book is a thoroughly considered reappraisal of the teaching of traditional harmony. the laboratory in which these methods have been tried and tested was the Music Department at Keele University, where I was Professor of Music from 1974 to 1984 and a colleague of the author. Although our new Department developed research interests and facilities in some novel areas such as American music, popular music, electronic studio and jazz, there was never any question of dispensing with the study of the material of Western music and its heritage of masterpieces from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries--in spite of John Cage's declaration that 'everything one needs to know about classical harmony can be taught in one half hour.'

Cage's exaggeration draws attention to the fact that there is now a vast amount of music outside the aegis of Western functional harmony and time is short, especially in joint-honours courses. George Pratt addresses himself to the task of getting the best results in the minimum time so that the technical elements can be effectively learnt from the start of the first year or before. He has never condoned the teaching of musical practice in the abstract, so the book is full of real music. I think he has been completely successful in his aims and I expect that at least a generation of teachers and students will be grateful to him.

Peter Dickinson

Author's Note

When The Dynamics of Harmony was first published a decade ago, my intention was simply to share with music students and teachers an approach to common-practice harmony which had worked effectively for a number of years in my own teaching. Many students, on coming to university, had thoroughly learnt the chordal vocabulary of Western harmony, but without a clear view of how it is ordered and directed towards a goal--a phrase-ending, a paragraph, the span of a complete movement.

I focused on the dominant-directed nature of much harmony; extended this to another concept, 'substitute chords'; de-mystified chromaticism by stripping it down to its bare essentials. Above all, I wanted to promote the study of harmony as a tool for analysing and revealing the delight of real music and I based all the examples on three 'core texts'--a Schubert songcycle. Mozart's piano sonatas, and Bach's chorale harmonisations.

Early generous reviews suggested that my concern was widely shared and my solutions warmly welcomed. Through four reprintings, the book . . .

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