New Musical Resources by Henry Cowell

By Henry Cowell

Due to the fact its unique ebook in 1930, Henry Cowell's New Musical assets has turn into well-known as one of many few seminal technical reports to be written by way of a twentieth-century composer. In 1971, Virgil Thomson hailed it as "a classic." For this new version, David Nicholls has supplied an explanatory essay and annotations to Cowell's textual content. The essay lines the assets for the booklet and makes an attempt to put Cowell's theories within the broader context of musical modernism.

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Sample text

F#- rlnt- ~ It} : 2. 1l -- K .. ~ J ,~ ~ -6/- - EXAMPLE 2 TONE COMBINATIONS ********************************** By a similar use of chords instead of single tones as units, a system of counterpoint of chords may be built up; for instance, a figure of second species counterpoint will be made if in one part a chord remains unchanged, while in another part there is a change of chords. Both changed chords should be related to the unchanged chord, and this relationship can be accomplished by relating the fundamental tones of each of the changed chords with the fundamental of the unchanged chord in correct counterpoint.

It is interesting to observe that as musicians became accustomed to reach into the higher ranges of the overtone series for their harmonic material, there was a corresponding tendency to reject the simplest ratios, I: 2 (octaves), 2: 3 (fifths), and 3: 4 (fourths), as harmonically insipid and undesirable; and rules still govern their use such as -are applied to no other intervals except dissonant and disco~dant ones. Th~re is a distinction to be drawn between making use of a new overtone in harmony, and fully assimilating that tone into older harmonic material.

Thus, on the overtones of C We can base the major triad of C, and on the undertones we can base a minor chord, called by its lowest tone, F minor. The nomenclature obscures the fact that the tones of the chord run down the undertone series, with C as its fundamental; but since musicians 27 NEW MUSICAL RESOURCES •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• are accustomed to name a chord from its lowest tone, it will be convenient to designate minor chords by their familiar names. We can make a simple beginning in mapping out polyharmonic material by taking C as a base, and placing beside it (I) the simplest related overtone, G, making a fifth above, and (2) the simplest related undertone, F, making a fifth below.

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