Nicolas Slonimsky was a Russian-born American conductor, author, pianist and composer. He wrote the Thesaurus of Music Scales and Patterns. These music scales and patterns were derived from the Schillinger System of Musical Composition and was used by Rudolf Schramm in his teaching of the Schillinger System at NYU in the 1950’s. Schillinger’s Theory of Symmetric Pitch Scales derives scales by dividing the octave into equal intervals. Those divisions would be in half or 2 Tonics, in thirds or 3 Tonics, 4 Tonics , 6 Tonics and 12 Tonics. The scales are derived by using the same music scale intervals in each tonic. Though Slonimsky’s nomenclature is unique his music scales are derived from this theory. In fact a pamphlet accompanied the first edition that explains the techniques in the Thesaurus that coincides with the Schillinger Books. Below you will find this Pamplet along with the Master Scales.
pamphlet-1 Pamphlet2 pamphlet3 pamphlet4 MasterChordChart1
Two Tonic Scales
In Slonimsky’s Thesaurus the first 180 scales are what Schillinger calls Symmetric Two Tonic Scales and Slonimsky calls Tritone Progression. As we learned in the last post we can build these symmetric scales by choosing notes between the tonics and the intervals of these notes must be the same after each tonic. In the first scale that Slonimsky shows is 1i or one interval. So the scale is C– C# > F#-G. We notice that the relationship to each Tonic is b9 and the relationship across tonics is a perfect Fifth. Using the harmony Slonimsky suggests the First Master Chord from the chart in the first blog post you can see the alterations across Tonics.
Slonimsky scales are introduced in what Schillinger calls Symmetric Scales. They are scales built on multiple Tonics that we obtained by splitting the Octave into equal parts. See the chart:
To construct scales of multiple tonics we must use the same intervals for each Tonic.
Slonimsky’s Scales 1-4 uses 1,2, 4 and 5 intervals from the Tonics. So Scale 1 is one interval so starting on C(Tonic 1) C# (one interval) F# (Tonic 2) G (one interval).
Scale 2,3 and 4 use the intervals 2,4 and 5 respectively.
Using this as an example you can see the possible scales that can be created once you start adding scale notes between the tonics.
See the chart:
As you can see the number of scales that are possible are great. The number of permutations of scales is actually 3,68,800. Slonimsky pares that number down by his approach techniques.
Slonimsky’s Thesaurus catalogues symmetric scales patterns and gives harmonic ideas to go along with them. These are explained in the Schillinger System of Musical Composition. What we mean by symmetric scales is scales that have multiple tonics and these tonics are created by the splitting the octave into equal sections. The first scales Slonimsky shows are Two Tonic scales. Splitting the Octave into two equal segments.
Let’s take a look at Slonimsky’s Thesaurus and understand his nomenclature. Let’s look at the chart below: