Dissertation Index

Author: Adams, Kyle

Title: A New Theory of Chromaticism from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Eighteenth Century

Institution: CUNY Graduate Center

Begun: January 2008

Completed: September 2006


This dissertation is intended as a solution to a perceived problem with existing theories of pre-tonal chromatic music: modern theories of this repertoire made anachronistic uses of models from major/minor tonality, and contemporaneous theories were not broad enough to adequately represent the phenomena that, to my ears, gave chromatic music its unique sound. Both groups of theories missed the mark by treating all chromatic events in this repertoire equally.
This dissertation is therefore in three parts. The first chapter surveys existing theories of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century chromaticism, both from the period in question and from our own, and shows the specific ways in which these theories are deficient. The second chapter presents my own theory, which provides a model for separating chromatic tones according to their structural function and an analytical method for reducing chromatic works to their diatonic foundations. The third chapter applies this theory to selected works and passages of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, with an attendant discussion of the ways in which changes in musical style affected changes in chromaticism. The appendices also form a valuable contribution to scholarship, both by showing the analytical results of my research into the most common of chromatic progressions, the chromatic fourth, and by presenting an extensive catalogue of chromatic music from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century

Keywords: chromaticism, vicentino, rameau, chromatic fourth, gesualdo


(Part One: Existing Theories of Chromaticism)
Chapter One: A Survey of Theories of Chromaticism from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Eighteenth Century
Chapter Two: A Survey of Modern Theories of Early Chromaticism
(Part Two: A New Theory of Chromaticism from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Eighteenth Century)
Chapter Three: An Overview of the Theory
Chapter Four: A Detailed Discussion of the Theory
(Part Three: Analyses)
Chapter Five: The Chromatic Fourth
Chapter Six: Complete Works and Passages
I. Orlando di Lasso, Prologue from Prophetiae Sibyllarum, II. Cipriano de Rore, Calami sonum ferentes, III. Carlo Gesualdo, Ma tu, cagion, IV. Henry Purcell, Fantazia 2 3, V. Jean-Philippe Rameau, Trio des Parques from Hippolyte et Aricie


Kyle Adams
2255 Sweetbriar Ct., Bloomington, IN, 47401-4651
(812) 334-3497

     Return to dissertations