The universe of modality

Although the subject has generated considerable scientific production and much debate, the concept of modality cannot be easily defined. As musicologist Nicolas Meeùs puts it: "the question of modality is one of the most difficult and interesting of those which arise in modern musicology, in particular in this analytical musicology which gives itself the task of question the deep structure of music ”(2013). Rather than giving a unique and therefore restrictive definition of "modality" or "modal music", it seemed to us more relevant to approach it by diversified musical examples highlighting its specificities in each of the musical situations addressed, and thus offer contextualized apprehensions. The conception of what a "mode" is or its use, without being named, vary according to the periods and the musical cultures concerned, as well as the terminologies used.

However, bridges are noted between the different musical universes presented and justify a perspective of the modality. At the origin of this portal is the conviction of the existence of a "modal understanding", to use the expression of the singer Erik Marchand (2012) at the initiative of the project. It is at least a shared approach to music: a horizontal conception of the latter with a primacy of the melodic line; an underlying structure on which improvisations or variations are based, with particular attention to the intervals of the scale which do not necessarily fall under the equal temperament obtained by dividing the octave into twelve equal intervals.

The modal understanding, historically present in Western music, seems today often reserved for the description of non-European music. However, modality is the foundation of many popular Western European music, including that of Lower Brittany, modal music of popular and oral tradition, which was the basis of our reflection. Taking into account this reality is, without doubt, discovering new riches and an innovative support for creation, but also discovering a musical syntax shared between East and West.


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