Dissertation Index

Author: Hansen, Thomas Holme

Title: From Mode to Key. An Investigation of European Modal/Tonal Theories in the Seventeenth Century [in Danish]

Institution: University of Aarhus (Denmark)

Completed: June 1996


The subject of the dissertation is the evolution of the concept of tonality in European music theory during the seventeenth century. It aims to provide an overview of how the different doctrines of modality originating in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance (the eight so-called church modes, the eight psalm tones, the twelve modes) on the one hand survive and develop in various versions, and on the other are supplemented and replaced by other tonal doctrines eventuating in the major-minor system during the decades around 1700. The main focus is on three themes of the modal/tonal theories of the seventeenth century: (1) The maintenance of the twelve-mode doctrine dating back to H. Glarean and G. Zarlino, including various attempts at reducing or increasing the number of modes. It is concluded that the predominant part of continental theorists maintained the fundamental premises of the modal theory of Glarean/Zarlino. (2) The dissemination of the set of eight organ tones originating in Catholic alternatim practice. These modes represent a new and independent doctrine, whose theoretical codification in especially A. Banchieri and G.G. Nivers is discussed in detail. (3) Features of development leading toward the modern concept of major and minor keys. Although the theoretical premises of the modern system of keys were already present at the outset of the seventeenth century a number of remarkable discrepancies are pointing to a very diverse degree of key-like consolidation among the writers in the different countries.

Keywords: tonality, modality, history of theory, modes, organ tones, major/minor keys, Zarlino, Banchieri, Renaissance, Baroque


1. Introduction
2. Tonal System System of Modes/Keys Tonality
3. Monophonic Modal Theory
4. Polyphonic Modal Theory
5. The Modal Theory
6. The Organ Tones
7. The Major and Minor Keys
Conclusion; Catalogue of Seventeenth-Century Theoretical Sources
(1571-1722); Bibliography; Appendices; Musical Supplements


Thomas Holme Hansen
Department of Musicology
University of Aarhus
Langelandsgade 139
DK-8000 Aarhus C
phone: +45 8942 5154;
fax: +45 8942 5164; e-mail: musthh@hum.aau.dk

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