The Phrygian dominant (Middle Eastern) scale

Questions and answers


I need some clarification about the Phrygian dominant (Middle Eastern) scale; the notes of the E Phrygian dominant scale are E-F-G sharp-A...etc., as we all know. But the standard chord progression uses triads with roots of E, F and G notes. How is that possible? Would that mean that this scale is a hybrid scale like the melodic minor scale, with different notes depending on whether the scale is ascending or descending?


Practical music will always go beyond the boundaries of music theory. For example, there are tons of flamenco songs that comprise both the E Middle Eastern Phrygian tonality and triads rooted by the notes of a normal E Major scale. Let's see the following YouTube video, a song in the BulerĂ­as style of flamenco music. It shows the mixture of the tonalities very well.




In the video the B Middle Eastern Phrygian tonality is used along with the triads rooted by the notes of a normal B Major scale. One here comes the exciting part; at the end of the song the basic tonality changes to B Major! So much for sticking to the rules laid down in music theory. What's interesting about this song is that this change of tonalities does not even sound weird, but natural! This just proves my point; practical music cannot be limited by the rules of music theory. If music in reality meant literally applying the music theory rules, and create music solely out of those rules, computers would be able to algorithmically create the music of Mozart, Beethoven. The reality is that not even a bulerĂ­as song could be created by computers. Music theory just simply does not explore new horizons in music. It does not innovate, does not create trends; it only follows up and cements certain obsolete rules. All in all, music theory is more of a science that appears to show the achievements of the great classical composers. The tonal rules of music creation in classical music theory just can't seem to be applied to other genres, such as flamenco; sometimes not even to classical music itself.


So let's get back to answering your original question; not only the Middle Eastern Phrygian scale is hybrid (i.e. not uniform), but music itself is something you can't force within boundaries. It is never uniform; always hybrid, if you like.


Let's take the example of the prelude of Tristan and Isolde by Wagner:




From musical theory point of view, this musical composition is a total fail. In reality, it is a masterpiece of a genius. The piece has such an overwhelming effect on the people that it has made musicians literally go crazy performing it. Even musicologists back in the time (1865!) couldn't seem to understand and find the system in this piece of music. In fact, there is no need to always find a system in music. Musical theory is just a bunch of musical rules. But good music, especially masterpieces like the predule of Tristan and Isolde, cannot be systematized, but has effect on people, makes them feel. - Phrygian dominant - Questions and answers