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Enigmatic scale

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Enigmatic scale


The enigmatic scale (scala enigmatica) is an unusual musical scale, with elements of both major and minor scales, as well as the whole-tone scale. It was originally published in a Milan journal as a musical challenge, with an invitation to harmonize it in some way.

Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, who supposedly invented the scale[4] actually returned to composition with this, "arbitrary scale,"[5] in his "Ave Maria (sulla scala enigmatica)" (1889, revised 1898), in response to a challenge printed in the Milan Gazzetta musicale to employ a musical conundrum.[6] The "Ave Maria", compiled as part of the Quattro Pezzi Sacri (1898) [4 sacred pieces], has been described as, "that still almost incomprehensible into-one-another-gliding of harmonies over the entirely 'unnatural' scala enigmatica".[7] The piece features the scale both in its harmonies and as a cantus firmus throughout the short piece[8] in half-note values in the bass and then each successively higher voice accompanying, "queer counterpoint which...is far-fetched and difficult of intonation; [and] the total effect is almost, if not quite, as musical as it is curious".[3]

The scale, (written out beginning on G) is as follows:

G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G

And has a formula of: T - m2 - M3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - M7 - 8ve.

With the musical steps as following: Semitone, Tone and a half, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Semitone.

The scale lacks a perfect fourth and a perfect fifth above the starting note. Both the fourth and fifth degrees of a scale form the basis of standard chord progressions, which help establish the tonic.

The scale was used by guitarist Joe Satriani in his piece "The Enigmatic"[1] from Not of This Earth (1986).

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