The Key Note
In western harmony scales are defined from Tonic to Tonic (from C-C). The Tonal definition exists around the outside, containing the harmony like skin around a body or endcaps on a bookshelf. It seems counterintuitive & I believe that it is.
Up until the 1200-1300's AD the Tonal center of a particular harmony was expressed harmonically through the center by the modal system passed down from the Greeks. The move towards a definitive 'endcap' practice was the result of a developing of chromaticism & the confusion in trying to contain it. This led to the birth of 12 different key signatures, all with their own tonic point of view. This gave harmony the space it needed to chromatically grow & the structure for composers to understand it. After 700 years Harmony still has new space to grow into & we can still learn from what it can shows us. Let's start putting harmony it back into itself...
C Major has the note C as its tonic. Thinking of C as a tonal center would place the note C in the center of the scale, theoretically starting on the 4th or 5th of C (G A B C D E F G, or F G A B C D E F) & the same would apply with each of the 12 separate key signatures. Essentially it would be applying the system of modes into each keysignature. Nothing new or drastic & really not even a big deal. The only difference is the definitions within the new foundation, a little change in perspective making a big change in direction.
I Tried Something
A scale attached to the English alphabet, 26 letters attached to 26 intervals.
Since C will be the Tonal center of this scale, start with the letter M as the note C and continue diatonically, N as the note D etc.. & the same in the opposite direction, L as the note B, K as the note A, etc..
Repeat the same C Tonal center scale, overlapped chromatically. Start with the letter M as the note C, N as the note C#, etc.. & the same in the opposite direction, L as the note B, the letter K as the note Bb:
The result is extremely different than any traditional scale. The result is a chromatic scale that has a length of slightly more than 2 Octaves (from bass stave C, passed middle C, up to C# treble staff) that's overlapped onto a diatonic scale that has a span of 3 Octaves plus a 5th, all balanced around a C Tonal center. Two natural scales radiating out of the center note C, like the solar system, or a galaxy contained by phonics.
When provided a structure to contain itself, the Tonal center provides it's own natural self-space that can be defined through intervallic distance. This particular example, using the alphabet, provides an outer circumference of 26. Below is another example using the alphabet structure with a Tonal center focusing around the note A:
The intervals present diminished 4th's (#19) diminished 5th's (#22), demonstrates symmetry, as well as reciprocal motions (#7 & 19, #4 & 22) that match its overall macro form.
An exercise in producing all of the 12 key signatures (& the modes of those key signatures) ends up painting a tonal palette, revealing distances of augmented unisons & double diminished intervals. A key note tonal center is reminiscent of a Pythagorean system, a natural motion within.
This key note perspective contains a sense of overall definition and symmetry but it lacks movement, it has no rhythm within itself. I imposed the idea of assigning the English alphabet onto 12 rhythmic durations (from an earlier post). That chart can be superimposed onto this process in 2 different ways by corresponding the letter to a rest, or a keyscale note with a rest. Both produce a motion that's reminiscent of Wagners Nature Leitmotiv from his epic opera cycle The Ring Of The Nibelung. Choosing rhythmic duration based on alphabet letter produces a 'block chord' rythmic motion. Corresponding the rhythm through note name produces a melodic/polyphonic based motion.
Here's a short composition where all of the notes were derived from the letters in the name 'Joseph'.
The scale used was a C KeyNote superimposed onto the English alphabet:
What's the purpose?
Seeing new extra-musical relationships, mixing principles & springboarding new ideas, expand areas in order to refine & redefine boundaries, demonstrating points of natural change, understand the sense of space.