In many modern compositions, composers like to incorporate elements from modal music, and to my ears at least, it often sounds very surprising/refreshing. 

As far as I know (and I may be wrong ;) ), modes other than aeolian or ionian mode officially do not have "chord functions" or "cadence" chord progressions to establish the mode. Perhaps it's better to say that cadence-like progressions exist, but they are perceived as weaker than those in the aeolian/ionian modes.

I was wondering if anyone is aware of books or online resources that systematically discuss these "weaker cadences" or some equivalent of "chord functions" in modes other than ionian/aeolian modes? Or if you can contribute some insights of your own those are welcome too of course :) Is it just a matter of transposing existing cadences to the new mode? Do other modes present new possibilities not present in aolian/ionian mode? Other chord substitutions? Is there a "general underlying principle" that allows deriving the most-likely-to-function-like-a-cadence-progression in any mode?

I've already found and read Margo Schulter's very accessible and interesting articles about harmony and cadences in early music here:

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Hello Stefaan, thanks for your reply! I don't think I would go so far as to say "accidental byproduct of following my ear," although I get, I think, what you are trying to say - that I do it based on feel. If that is what you're saying, then it is true to a certain extent, but I think my "feel" has some supportable logic to it. I don't want to just offer abstract conversation about this, so attached a piece I recently completed as a potential talking point, should you find it relevant to the conversation. This piece is mostly traditional tertial harmony, but then at measure 53 switches to quartal/quintal harmonies. I did this because I find quartal/quintal harmonies less "sweet," or said a different way, "stronger" and thus a good way to end a piece in an energetic way.


Hello Gav,

Thanks for posting your wonderful piece. It sounds very jazz-like to me and the harmonies at the end really make the piece end quite lively. Add to that the complex rythms - very nice! In jazz music, modality is quite common indeed and I probably should take a closer look at what happens there as well.

Thanks for your kind comments regarding the piece I posted, Stefaan. I think the composers of today have a bigger toolbox than the composers of yesteryear, because expectations about sticking to a rigid style are no longer there. In Bach's day, everyone was expected to compose in the baroque style. Nowadays, there is no such thing as a dominant style - everyone gets to do whatever works for them. This I think includes a freedom to use tonality in whatever way one thinks fit - the only requirement is that it works. I take great delight in modal and extended jazz harmonies (11ths, 13ths, 15ths, and beyond) because I see them as the frontier of tonal composing - extending what is considered tonal to include sounds that in the past would not have been considered to be so.

I think you hit the nail on its head here. One person's erosion is another person's enrichment. I for one welcome the style mix-ups as an enrichment. I my own music I am sometimes looking for ways to e.g. make extreme dissonance sound acceptable to a larger audience. 

There's a related idea I wanted to write down once, even if it is not fully mature (and perhaps makes no sense when analyzed more closely ;)).

One can use "tonal" progressions but execute them with "colored" chords (i.e. triads with extra notes added to add harmonic color). Think of circle of fifths progressions as used in elementary jazz lessons. Or one can make "modal" progressions, that create a different "mood" even when using only "pure triads". It's a different approach leading to very different results (arguably more "medieval" sounding music). When I formulated this question I was interested in learning something about the latter way of composing music.

Gav Brown said:

...extending what is considered tonal to include sounds that in the past would not have been considered to be so.

Thanks for your latest post Stefaan, I agree with your comment 'One can use "tonal" progressions but execute them with "colored" chords' - as it so happens I was a participant in a recent contest on another site where the goal was to take a melody written by another composer (who won a prior contest for best melody) and write harmony for it. I harmonized a melody written by composer Fredrick Zinos using extended jazz chords under his traditional classical melody. I'll point out a few examples in the attached piece. In measure 2, the B natural in the melody is the 11th of the F-sharp minor chord I put under it. In measure 9, the F# in the melody is a sharpened 11th of the C major chord I used. Starting in measure 17, I abandon any pretense to traditional harmony with a sequence of 7th chords which rise in each measure. The height of extended harmony happens in measure 30, which has an F-major major 7th chord with D-major melody atop. I got permission from Fredrick to post this piece here and am sending him a link to this page. His page on the other site is here.


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