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23.1: Enharmonic Modulation

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    23.1 Enharmonic Modulation

    In an enharmonic modulation, the pivot chord is almost always misspelled in one of the keys and therefore must be reconceptualized enharmonically by the analyst. In this regard, an enharmonic modulation is a harmonic pun.

    Here is a pun from Shakespeare’s Richard III, Act 1, Scene 1:

    Now is the winter of our discontent

    Made glorious summer by this sun of York

    The “sun” of York is the son of York, King Edward IV.

    Here is a simple enharmonic modulation:


    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Enharmonic Modulation from C major to B minor

    Like a verbal pun, this harmonic pun is effective because the third chord (GG7) has two “meanings”—in the context of C major, GG7 is VV7 and the root wants to cadence down a fifth to C, but the GG7 is a GerGer+6 in the context of B minor, where the root of the GG7 wants to progress down a half step to a chord of dominant function, ii46 in the example above.


    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    Notice that the GG7 can only be spelled correctly in one of the keys—either as a dominant seventh chord on G (G–B–D–F) or as a GerGer+6 on G (G–B–D–E♯), hence the term “enharmonic modulation.” The analyst must envision the other spelling (the one not shown) to understand the double context, in the same way “sun of York” must be envisioned as “son of York.”

    We will encounter two sonorities used in enharmonic modulations: the dominant seventh sonority and the diminished seventh sonority.

    This page titled 23.1: Enharmonic Modulation is shared under a GNU Free Documentation License 1.3 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robert Hutchinson via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.