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modulation

modulation, in music, shift in the key center of a composition. For its accomplishment use is made of the fact that each chord figures in the harmonic relationships of several keys. In modulating from one key to another, a chord that is common to both keys is used as a pivot chord. If there is no chord common to the two keys, a passage may move through several keys before the desired modulation has been effected. Modulation is commonly employed as a means of achieving variety in a composition and has been in use since the late 15th cent.

See C. Zöller, The Art of Modulation (1930) M. Reger, On the Theory of Modulation (tr. 1948).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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