Sequences: Between affirmation and destruction of tonality

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Jan Philip Sprick


In the history of music theory, we encounter the paradox that harmonic sequences are simultaneously seen as fundamental, affirmative examples for tonality (Rameau, Sechter, et al.) and as structures that threaten or even destroy cadence-oriented understandings of tonality (Fétis, Riemann, Grabner, et al.). Sprick (2012) has argued that the discussion of sequences around 1900 functioned as a kind of “testing ground” for individual conceptions of tonality. This article goes further in relating historical discourses on the sequence with a contemporary perspective, a study that reveals striking similarities suggesting the sequence remains an important and challenging structural device within the theoretical discourses of tonality.

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