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The Concept of Chromaticism in African Art Music: An Analysis of Selected Works of Lazarus Ekwueme

O Kehinde

Abstract


Chromaticism can be defined in different ways. The definition of chromatics provides a standard characterization: “In melodic and harmonic analysis the term ‘chromatic’ is generally applied to notes marked with accidentals foreign to the scale of the key in which the passage is written” (Dyson & Drabkin, 2006). Most music theorists would use this as a point of departure for an extended discussion of the importance of chromaticism in relation to musical organization – including both vertical (harmonic) and horizontal (melodic) processes. It is possible that a passage modulates to a different key without a commensurate change of key signature. Consequently, an accidental may render a note consistent with this prevailing (modulated) key yet be construed as “chromatic” in light of the key signature. One difficulty with this operational definition is that it fails to distinguish “degrees” of chromaticism. For example, a chromatic passing tone might be viewed as less indicative of “chromaticism” than a structural chromatic tone. Although our operational definition of “chromatic” fails to capture all of the nuances of chromatic theory, it may nevertheless provide a practical index that characterizes the broad trends (D.Perttu,2007). The main focus of this study is to delineate the conceptual view of chromatic application in the works of Lazarus Ekweme in African Arts context. Moreover, this study sieves out the symbolic meanings of chromatics as applied in Ekweme’s Missa-Africana.



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