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G. Rybintseva

Dialectical spiral of the circle of fifths

The circle of fifths is one of the most significant concepts in classical music theory. Its theoretical and practical importance has been universally recognized. However, the worldview aspect of the circle of fifths has not been fully comprehended until now.

The circle of fifths is relevant only in conditions of equal temperament. The qualities of this system correspond to the image of a single homogeneous infinite space of the Universe, which has developed in the public consciousness of the Modern Period. It should be borne in mind that the equally tempered scale is an artificial one, created by the purposeful efforts of acoustics, theorists of music and composers who perfected the natural pitсh spaces system by means of reason in full accordance with the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment. The result of their efforts was the creation of a new pitch system that meets the needs of music creators by artificially adjusting the natural scale.

The equal temperament provided the enharmonism of the same tones from different octaves and the possibility, by moving along the circle of fifths, to carry out modulations in distant tonalities with a return to the original key. In this regard, the circle of fifths can be interpreted as a formula for a spiral movement, that is, development that meets the principles of Hegelian dialectics. Applying the principles of dialectics to the interpretation of the historical process, Hegel became the author of a new understanding of the world, called “historicism”. Using the circle of fifths as a scheme of tonal-harmonic development and creation of a musical form, Hegel’s contemporaries – representatives of Classicism – created musical images the development of which is carried out in a spiral.

In this regard, musical works whose tonalharmonic plan is based on the laws of the circle of fifths can be understood as a sound recreation of the dynamics of historical time.

Key words

circle of fifths, equally tempered scale, tonal-harmonic development, musical form, worldview, dialectics, historicism.

For citation

Rybintseva G. Dialectical spiral of the circle of fifths // South-Russian Musical Anthology. 2021. No. 3. Pp. 83–88.