Modes, Semi-keys, and Keys: A Reality Check

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Section 12.1 analyzes Harold Powers’s provocative claim that “mode is not real.” It is shown that this claim is conceivably true only under the medieval, “octenary” doctrine. Section 12.2 is a critique of Gregory Barnett’s related claim that the seventeenth-century “church keys” “are not modes.” It is shown that to the contrary, the church keys are precisely triadic semi-keys. Finally, Sect. 12.3 revisits empirical data, originally put forward by Krumhansl and Kessler which support the existence of a nucleus-core-cluster hierarchy from a receiver-related perspective, all in the context of triadic keys. Transmitter-related data, which support the existence of a distinction between first- and second-order chromatic degrees, is presented. This latter finding undermines the notion (suggested by Krumhansl and others), that listeners form an internal representation of tonality on the basis of note distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComputational Music Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages27
StatePublished - 2013

Publication series

NameComputational Music Science
ISSN (Print)1868-0305
ISSN (Electronic)1868-0313

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Background System
  • Chromatic Scale
  • Modal Theory
  • Tonal Music
  • Tonal Type


Dive into the research topics of 'Modes, Semi-keys, and Keys: A Reality Check'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this