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Mystic chord - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Mystic chord
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In music, the mystic chord or Prometheus chord is a six-note synthetic

chord and its associated scale, or pitch collection; which loosely serves as
the harmonic and melodic basis for some of the later pieces by Russian
composer Alexander Scriabin. Scriabin, however, did not use the chord
directly but rather derived material from its transpositions.
It consists of the pitch classes: C, F, B, E, A, D. This is often interpreted
as a quartal hexachord consisting of an augmented fourth, diminished
fourth, augmented fourth, and two perfect fourths. However, the chord
may be spelled in a variety of ways, and it is related to other pitch
collections, such as being a hexatonic subset of the Overtone scale, lacking
the perfect fifth.

Mystic chord on C.

Play .

Mystic chord
Component intervals from root
major second


major sixth
major third
minor seventh

1 Nomenclature
2 Qualities
3 Use by Scriabin

augmented fourth
Forte no.

4 Use by other composers

5 See also
6 Notes
7 References
8 Further reading
9 External links

The term "mystic chord", appears to derive from Scriabin's intense interest in Theosophy, and the chord is
imagined to reflect this mysticism. It was coined by Arthur Eaglefield Hull in 1916.[1]

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Mystic chord - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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It is also known as the "Prometheus chord", after its extensive use in his work Prometheus: The Poem of Fire,
Op.60. The term was invented by Leonid Sabaneyev.[1]
Scriabin himself called it the "chord of the pleroma" (a - akkord pleromy),[1] which "was
designed to afford instant apprehension of -that is, to reveal- what was in essence beyond the mind of man to
conceptualize. Its preternatural stillness was a gnostic intimation of a hidden otherness."[2]

Jim Samson [3] points out that it fits in well with Scriabin's
predominantly dominant quality sonorities and harmony as
it may take on a dominant quality on C or F. This tritone
relationship between possible resolutions is important to
Scriabin's harmonic language, and it is a property shared by
the French sixth (also prominent in his work) of which the
synthetic chord can be seen as an extension.
The pitch collection is related to the octatonic scale, the
whole tone scale, and the French sixth, all of which are

Synthetic chord's dominant quality[3]

capable of a different number of transpositions.[4] For

example, the chord is a whole tone scale with one note raised a semitone (the "almost whole-tone" hexachord,
sometimes identified as "whole tone-plus"), and this alteration allows for a greater variety of resources through
The notes of the chord also conform to a Lydian dominant quality, the fourth mode of the melodic minor scale.

Use by Scriabin
much of
The Mystic is an example of a synthetic chord, and
the scale from which it derives its notes, sometimes
called the Prometheus scale, is an example of a
synthetic scale. Play .
Rare example of a complete, quartal voicing the
Mystic Chord in Scriabin's work. Piano Sonata
No.5, Op.53. Mm. 262-263. Play

Scriabin's music is entirely based on the chord to the extent

that whole passages are little more than long sequences of
this chord, unaltered, at different pitches; but this is rarely
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Mystic chord - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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the case. More often than not, the notes are reordered in order to supply a variety of harmonic or melodic
material. Certain of Scriabin's late pieces are based on other synthetic chords or scales that do not rely on the
mystic chord.
There seems today to be a general consensus that the mystic chord is neither the key nor the
generating element in Scriabin's method.
Jay Reise (1983)[6]
Other sources suggest that Scriabin's method of pitch organization is based on ordered scales that feature scale
degrees. For example, a group of piano miniatures (Op.58, Op.59/2, Op.61, Op.63, Op.67/1 and Op.69/1) are
governed by the acoustic and/or the octatonic scales.[7]
Contrary to many textbook descriptions of the chord, which present the sonority as a series of superposed
fourths, Scriabin most often manipulated the voicings to produce a variety of melodic and harmonic
intervals.[note 1] A rare example of purely quartal spacing can be found in the Fifth Piano Sonata (bars 264,
268). Incomplete versions of the chord spaced entirely in fourths are considerably more common, for example,
in Deux Morceaux, Op.57.
According to George Perle, Scriabin used this chord in what he calls a pre-serial manner, producing harmonies,
chords, and melodies. However, unlike the twelve tone technique to which Perle refers, Scriabin did not use his
Mystic chord as an ordered set and did not worry about repeating or omitting notes or aggregate

Use by other composers

With the increasing use of more dissonant
sonorities, some composers of the 20th and 21st
centuries have used this chord in various ways.

See also
Elektra chord
Petrushka chord
Psalms chord
Tristan chord


Example of the use of the mystic chord as a dominant chord

in Duke Ellington's piano piece Reflections in D (1958). In
this case, as V/V. The E dominant 9th chord has #11th and
13th appoggiaturas added, which resolve conventionally.

1. In the same manner that a dominant seventh, built on superposed thirds, will deploy intervals of a sixth, fourth, and/or
second under inversion.

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Mystic chord - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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1. "Skryabin and the Impossible", p.314. Simon Morrison. Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 51, No. 2.
(Summer, 1998), pp. 283-330.
2. "Chernomor to Kashchei: Harmonic Sorcery; Or, Stravinsky's 'Angle'". Richard Taruskin. Journal of the American
Musicological Society, Vol. 38, No. 1. (Spring, 1985), pp. 72-142. Cited in Morrison (1998).
3. Samson, Jim (1977). Music in Transition: A Study of Tonal Expansion and Atonality, 1900-1920. W.W. Norton &
Company. pp. 1567. ISBN 0-393-02193-9.
4. "Orthography in Scriabin's Late Works", p.60. Cheong Wai-Ling. Music Analysis, Vol. 12, No. 1. (Mar., 1993), pp. 4769.
5. "The Evolution of Twelve-Note Music", p.56. Oliver Neighbour. Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 81st
Sess. (1954 - 1955), pp. 49-61.
6. "Late Skriabin: Some Principles behind the Style", p.221. Jay Reise. 19th-Century Music, Vol. 6, No. 3. (Spring, 1983),
pp. 220-231.
7. "Principles of Pitch Organization in Scriabin's Early Post-tonal Period: The Piano Miniatures". Vasilis Kallis, Music
Theory Online, Vol. 14.3 (Sep 2008)

Further reading
Hewitt, Michael. Musical Scales of the World. The Note Tree. 2013. ISBN 978-0957547001.

External links
Some occurrences of the Mystic chord in the scores of the Petrucci Music Library
Retrieved from ""
Categories: Post-tonal music theory Chords Hexachords
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