Sigismondo d’India – Eighth book of madrigals for five voices, 1624

D’India is known best for his songs, say the liner notes. This is not that, these are polyphonic madrigals. If that is not music technological enough for you, get a load of this: His polyphonic madrigals often borrow textural ideas from Gesualdo, especially in juxtaposing slow, intensely chromatic music with light, almost delirious diatonic passages. Says wikipedia. Hmm.

I wrote about Gesualdo before. Let’s see if I can translate this musical technobabble this time. The two terms that are central for understanding this juxtapositioning are diatonic and chromatic. Both are scales, and from what I understand the definition of the latter very much depends on the former, so let’s start with diatonic.

Diatonic refers to a scale you will get when playing notes using both colours of keys on the piano. So this is using half note distances, with sharps and flats. This is including the major and minor scales that are well known to everyone that ever played piano. Mind you, it is not limited to that set.

Chromatic refers to scales that are built from every one of the twelve notes in the octave. To keep the piano analogy, it uses all keys, black and white, in order.

Many times, when a note is said to be chromatic, it means it is outside of the diatonic scale that is in use at that moment.

Does this get us any further in understanding d’India’s music?

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