Northern lights chord

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Northern Lights chord
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In music, the 'northern lights' chord is an eleven-note chord from Ernst Krenek's Cantata for Wartime (1943), that represents the Northern Lights. Krenek's student, Robert Erickson, cites the chord as an example of a texture arranged so as to, "closely approach the single-object status of fused-ensemble timbres, for example, the beautiful 'northern lights'...chord, in a very interesting distribution of pitches, produces a fused sound supported by a suspended cymbal roll". [1] "The 'northern lights' sounds, so icy and impersonal and menacing, are a brilliant orchestral invention." [2]

Music form of art using sound

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

Chord (music) harmonic set of three or more notes

A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of multiple notes that are heard as if sounding simultaneously. For many practical and theoretical purposes, arpeggios and broken chords, or sequences of chord tones, may also be considered as chords.

Ernst Krenek was an Austrian, later American, composer of Czech origin. He explored atonality and other modern styles and wrote a number of books, including Music Here and Now (1939), a study of Johannes Ockeghem (1953), and Horizons Circled: Reflections on my Music (1974). Krenek wrote two pieces using the pseudonym Thornton Winsloe.

At eleven-notes the chord is one pitch shy of the total chromatic. Every note except E is sounded.


  1. 1 2 Erickson, Robert (1975). Sound Structure in Music, p.166 & 168. ISBN   0-520-02376-5.
  2. Erickson, Robert (1995). Music of Many Means: Sketches and Essays on the Music of Robert Erickson, p.28. Scarecrow. ISBN   9780810830141.

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