And Advanced Scales
This is where Naxos’s pretty definition of a scale dissolves. In the 20th century, composers began to experiment with synthetic modes. A synthetic mode is any ordered collection of pitches. Schoenberg’s 12-tone rows are an example of a synthetic mode, though Schoenberg’s own terminology usually supersedes the outdated verbiage associated with sacred counterpoint in discussions of serialism. In this context, “synthetic” simply means “created”: these are modes you create.
The most basic synthetic mode can be created based on the authentic modes. Take the seven basic pitches of the C major scale and add accidentals however you want. You’ve just created a synthetic mode!
Try writing a piece using only that scale. The seven-pitch construction gives your ear some grounding in traditional Western roots, but the altered intervals (“wolf intervals”, my professor used to call them, likening them to monstrous beasts that scare and surprise you) give a huge flavor of the exotic.
You can do anything with a synthetic mode that you can do with other scales and modes. Rotate through the pitches and find a “tonic” that you like. Try writing a polyphonic piece using melodies in your synthetic mode. Try finding the triads in your synthetic mode and writing a homophonic piece (that is, a melody with chordal accompaniment) based on the pitches. Look at the rich variety of tertian harmonies my synthetic mode above yields:
Take the next steps by stringing together sets of more or less pitches; seven pitches is so last-century. Try using algorithms to generate a scale, like the hexatonic and octatonic scale’s patterns of alternating intervals. The possibilities are limitless.