Due to historical confusion, Dorian mode or Doric mode can refer to two very different musical modes or diatonic scales.
Greek Dorian mode
The Dorian mode (properly harmonia or tonos) is named after the Dorian Greeks. Applied to a whole octave, the Dorian octave species was built upon two tetrachords separated by a whole tone, running from the hypate meson to the nete diezeugmenon. In the diatonic genus, the intervals in each tetrachord are semitone-tone-tone, and so the sequence over the octave is the same as that produced by playing all the white notes of a piano ascending from E to E: E F G A | B C D E, a sequence equivalent to the modern Phrygian mode. Placing the single tone at the bottom of the scale followed by two conjunct tetrachords (that is, the top note of the first tetrachord is also the bottom note of the second), produces the Hypodorian ("below Dorian") octave species: A | B C D E | (E) F G A. Placing the two tetrachords together and the single tone at the top of the scale produces the Mixolydian octave species, a note sequence equivalent to modern Locrian mode.
Medieval and modern Dorian mode
Medieval Dorian mode
The early Byzantine church developed a system of eight musical modes (the octoechoi), which served as a model for medieval European chant theorists when they developed their own modal classification system starting in the ninth century. The success of the Western synthesis of this system with elements from the fourth book of De institutione musica of Boethius, created the false impression that the Byzantine oktōēchos were inherited directly from ancient Greece. Originally used to designate one of the traditional harmoniai of Greek theory (a term with various meanings, including the sense of an octave consisting of eight tones), the name was appropriated (along with six others) by the second-century theorist Ptolemy to designate his seven tonoi, or transposition keys. Four centuries later, Boethius interpreted Ptolemy in Latin, still with the meaning of transposition keys, not scales. When chant theory was first being formulated in the ninth century, these seven names plus an eighth, Hypermixolydian (later changed to Hypomixolydian), were again re-appropriated in the anonymous treatise Alia Musica. A commentary on that treatise, called the Nova expositio, first gave it a new sense as one of a set of eight diatonic species of the octave, or scales. In medieval theory, the authentic Dorian mode could include the note B♭ "by licence", in addition to B♮. The same scalar pattern, but starting a fourth or fifth below the mode final D, and extending a fifth above (or a sixth, terminating on B♭), was numbered as mode 2 in the medieval system. This was the plagal mode corresponding to the authentic Dorian, and was called the Hypodorian mode. In the untransposed form on D, in both the authentic and plagal forms the note C is often raised to C♯ to form a leading tone, and the variable sixth step is in general B♮ in ascending lines and B♭ in descent.
Modern Dorian mode
The modern Dorian mode, by contrast, is a strictly diatonic scale corresponding to the white keys of the piano from "D" to "D", or any transposition of its interval pattern, which has the ascending pattern of:
- Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step
or more simply:
It can also be thought of as:
- Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Tone - Semitone - Tone
It may be considered an "excerpt" of a major scale played from the pitch a whole tone above the major scale's tonic (in the key of C Major it would be D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D), i.e., a major scale played from its second scale degree up to its second degree again. The resulting scale is, however, minor (or has a minor "feel" or character) because as the "D" becomes the new tonal centre the minor third between the D and the F make us "hear minor". If we build a chord on the tonic, third and fifth, it is a minor chord.
Examples of the Dorian mode include:
The D Dorian mode contains all notes the same as the C major scale starting on D.
The G Dorian mode contains all notes the same as the F major scale starting on G.
The A♭ Dorian mode contains all notes the same as the G♭ major scale starting on A♭.
The Dorian mode is symmetric, meaning that the pattern of tones and semitones (T-s-T-T-T-s-T) is the same ascending or descending.
The modern Dorian mode is equivalent to the natural minor scale (or the Aeolian mode) but with the sixth degree raised a semi-tone. Confusingly, the modern Dorian mode is the same as the Greek Phrygian mode.
Notable compositions in Dorian mode
^ Thomas J. Mathiesen, "Greece, §I: Ancient: 6. Music Theory: (iii) Aristoxenian Tradition: (d) Scales". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
^ Thomas J. Mathiesen, "Greece, §I: Ancient: 6. Music Theory: (iii) Aristoxenian Tradition: (e) Tonoi and Harmoniai". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
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^ Harold S. Powers, "Dorian", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, 29 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001): 7:507. ISBN 9781561592395
^ Harold S. Powers, "Hypodorian", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, 29 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publications, 2001): 12:36–37. ISBN 9781561592395
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