Two Approaches to Tonal Space in the Music of Muddy Waters

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This article posits two approaches to blues tonal space: the networked approach and the laddered approach. The first is underpinned by the cyclical potentiality of equal temperament and is characterised by descending chromatic motions. The second is underpinned by the harmonic series and is characterised by microtonal shaping of pitch content within the framework of a ladder that approximates an equally-tempered major minor-seventh chord.
Having explained the detail of these approaches to tonal space with reference to an early blues recording of Alberta Hunter and Fats Waller, the article goes on to look in detail at how Muddy Waters focuses upon the laddered approach to tonal space, but also develops novel ways of referencing the networked approach and of finding synergies between networked and laddered approaches. Discussion on these points provides further insight into the potential for interchange between networked and laddered tonal space in the blues. This interchange centres on the structural importance of the major minor seventh chord, the special weight afforded the sonority of the minor third and the affinity between microtonal and semitonal melodic motions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-58
JournalMusic Analysis
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


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