In Search of New Scales: Prince Edmond de Polignac, Octatonic Explorer

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University Rochester Press, 2009 - Music - 389 pages
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In 1879, French amateur composer Edmond de Polignac (1834-1901) painstakingly devised a new way to create melodies and harmonies using a scale that alternated half and whole steps. This scale -- known today as octatonic -- was an important element in the music of Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov, and would later figure prominently in the works of Ravel, Stravinsky, and many others. Sylvia Kahan, author of Music's Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, here publishes the Prince's octatonic treatise for the first time -- in both the original French and in English translation -- and comments extensively on what the treatise, and the Prince's little-known compositions, reveal about musical thought in late nineteenth-century Paris. Given his aristocratic lineage, Polignac might seem an unlikely precursor of musical modernism, yet he was known as an advocate of "advanced ideas." Late in life, he married wealthy heiress Winnaretta Singer, who sponsored prestigious public concerts of her husband's bold works, interpreted by the greatest musical artists in Paris. Debussy and Fauré were admirers of Polignac's music, especially the 1879 octatonic oratorio Pilate livre le Christ (Pontius Pilate Hands Christ Over). Marcel Proust lauded his compositions and the "essence of genius of their author." In Search of New Scales is based on bibliographic material in private archives, as well as letters and other documents in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Sylvia Kahan's new book will become a permanent point of reference for all future studies of post-Romantic and twentieth-century composition. Sylvia Kahan is Professor of Music at the Graduate Center and College of Staten Island, City University of New York. Her previous book, Music's Modern Muse, was published by the University of Rochester Press in hardcover and paperback.
  

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Contents

Example
5
Prince Edmond de Polignac ca 1893
7
Childhood and Education 18341859
9
A Young Composer 18591877
19
1a String Quartet No 2 in F Major mvt 3 mm 114
23
2a Lamento mm 816
32
Polignacs Invention of Octatonicism 18771879
38
1a FantaisieTanz mm 310
45
Years of Plenty 18941899
89
the Brancovan family and guests at the Villa Bassaraba Amphion
99
Endings and Echoes 1900
100
Edmond de Polignacs Octatonic Music
113
Afterword
141
Preface to Polignacs Octatonic Treatise
145
Known as MajorMinor Translation of the French Text
157
Edmond de Polignac Étude sur les successions alternantes
301

Nothing of the Usual Tonality 18801888
52
The Unexpected Woman 18891894
65
SingerPolignac
80
Alexandre de Bertha and the Guerre des gammes 18941896
82
Notes
335
Bibliography
369
Index
379
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

SYLVIA KAHAN is a pianist and a professor of music at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.

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