Tales of two tonics: Directional tonality in Debussy's orchestral music

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This article explores departures from monotonality in two movements from Debussy's orchestral Images: "Gigues" and "Le matin d'un jour de fête." The analyses draw on recent studies of tonal pairing and directional tonality in nineteenth-century music, with particular focus on the concepts of "double tonic complex" and "tonic sonority." Debussy's tonally directional frameworks are found to be rooted in nineteenth-century precedent, with respect to overall tonal plan and its reflection in deep middleground voice leading. However, the compositional realizations tend to subvert or problematize such underlying models, specifically with regard to their aspect of implicit goal-orientation toward the concluding tonic. Above all, these pieces exhibit an essentially dramatic approach to tonal dualism, one in which tonal pairings are played out through techniques of infiltration and confrontation. This dramatic conception also extends to the role of chromaticism, both in its relation to the dualistic nature of its diatonic context and, with respect to chromatic tonicization, through exploitation of its potential role as foil to the inherent dualism of the directional process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-118
Number of pages32
JournalMusic Theory Spectrum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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