The second or second (from Latin secunda = "the second") is used in music to describe the interval between two adjacent levels (e.g. c – d ). In a narrower sense, the second is also understood to be the second pitch of a diatonic scale. The complementary interval of the second is the seventh .
The second is counted among the dissonant intervals; it can generate particularly strong harmonic or melodic tension. In some harmony teachings (such as Frank Sikora's jazz harmony theory), the small second and the small ninth (small second + octave) are mentioned as the strongest dissonance. The complementary interval of the minor second, the major seventh, is just as exciting.
The interval second (s) can occur in four variants:
- the major second corresponding to a whole tone (a) and
- the small seconds corresponding to a semitone (b)
- the excessive second (c) ( hiatus )is rarer, it is characteristic of the harmonic minor scale and the gypsy minor ;
- the diminished second (d) only occurs with the help of accidentals and is an enharmonic mix-up of the starting tone, i.e. both tones are acoustically identical in the same tuning , but fulfill different functions harmonically .
|interval||Number of semitones||example||Reversal interval|
|(a)||great second||2 ( whole tone )||
C - D , E - F #
"Al le my ducklings"
|(b)||small second||1 ( semitone )||
C - Des , E - F
"If a bird comes flying"
|(c)||excessive second||3 (hiatus)||C - D flat , B - C sharp||diminished seventh|
|(d)||diminished second||0 (confused enharmonic)||Cis - Db , H - Ces||excessive seventh|
Small and large seconds occur melodically the most frequently of all intervals, since most scales also consist of second steps . The major second is used more often than the minor second, which usually only occurs twice per octave in a scale.
Meaning in the composition
The second can be seen as the interval of emphasis and tension, which in classical vocal music is often associated with pain, suffering, death and threat.
|Don Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa (around 1566–1613) used excessively dissonant harmonies and progressions with small seconds or excessive primes in his madrigals .|
Examples of the second as a continuous, formative principle of a composition:
- Claude Debussy (1862–1918), Pour les degrés chromatiques , an etude for piano.
- Béla Bartók (1881–1945), Chromatic Invention from the Microcosm
Furthermore, the striking beginning of the main motif (the so-called " ritornello "), which is constantly repeated through the piece , is based on the world-famous piano work Für Elise by Ludwig Van Beethoven .
The stringing together of several seconds results in ascending or descending scales , which as figures in compositions from the Renaissance to Romanticism have symbolic meaning as symbols or are intended to trigger affects . The passus duriusculus played a special role .
Secondary steps form the basic elements of the ornamentation of the Baroque and Classical periods as in trills, impact trills and mordent.
As mentioned above, the dissonant second counts - especially when two tones are sounded at the same time - in classical Western music culture as particularly dissonant and particularly uncomfortable with small seconds; in certain styles they always had to be resolved into consonant intervals. In the four-tone harmonics (from the end of the 17th century) such dissonances establish themselves as a chordal phenomenon and play a correspondingly prominent role in the cadences .
With the increasing dissolution of the tonal system in modern music, the second loses its former emotional significance. In modern composition, several seconds are put together in clusters in order to avoid any association with the tonal system (see the works of Henry Cowell , Charles Ives and Krzysztof Penderecki ).
- sub second (semitone):
- large second (whole tone):