Present Perspectives on Tonality


Université François-Rabelais,
Département de Musique et Musicologie
5 rue 5 rue François-Clouet
370 F-37000 TOURS

Present Perspectives on Tonality
Assessment and Prospects

26-28 November 2009

Convenor: Henri Gonnard
Research Team ‘Lieux et enjeux des modernités musicales’

Programme Committee: Serge Gut (Paris), Xavier Hascher (Strasbourg),
Théodora Psychoyou (Paris), Yizhak Sadaï (Tel Aviv)

The aim of this conference is to survey the current state of research on the question of tonality. Epistemological issues are immediately raised as this question cannot be envisaged without specifying the distinction between ‘tonality’ as a phenomenon and ‘tonal system’ as a theoretical construction. Generally, the former is considered as having been gradually set up and, thereafter, established during the late Baroque era, expanded and destabilized from the 19th century, to be finally defeated by the appearance of atonality in the 20th century. The latter is represented through the system of major/minor opposites and in the structuring of harmonic progressions, as they are approached from a synchronic/diachronic point of view. Moreover, theory and analysis meet up in the relationship which occurs between the object under analysis and the analyst, between the observer and the object that is observed.
Thus, as its leading theme the conference will focus on the interaction between:
1. the theory and the analysis of tonal music,
2. theory or analysis and the objects to which they apply.
Papers may wish to concentrate on either aspect from an epistemological, historical, or methodological point of view.

Proposed topics

One of the questions to be examined is how, at the present time, to circumscribe and define tonality. What corpus is to be covered, historically and geographically? What are the permanent features of tonality, and its subsidiary ones? In what way does tonal writing come within the scope of pre-compositional data and to what extent? How did the evolution of tonality give rise to its expansion at the same time as its disintegration? What kind of relationship could be established between the concept of tonal system and the different types of modal systems? In considering music from the beginning of the 20th century, should the idea of dissonance be emphasised – the latter needing to be defined – or rather that of atonality? In other words, to what extent does the incompatibility between tonality and atonality operate in the works of this period?
This conference will also entail an inventory of the tools available for the analysis of tonal music, of which the richness will be measured against the capacity to renew such tools. The tonal system will thus be considered as itself productive of analytical methods. To what extent, then, is the analysis of tonal works dependant on a prior theory, and can such an analysis obtain results other than those foreseen by the theory in question?

Proposal for papers (of no more than 20 lines) with a short CV should be sent to before 15 May 2009. Travel expenses are to be met by the participants or their institution of affiliation. The proceedings of the conference will be published. Information: +33 247 36 7727, or the above email address.