This research has been exploring the world of long tones, traditionally named pedals and drones. The way these labels are commonly used brings two problems with it.

1) First, it suggests that the pedals in the western art music are fundamentally different than the drones of folk music and drone music. While this is indeed a statistical truth, it prevents the analyst from seeing that some art music pieces also feature folk drones, and some others the drones like those in ambient music. On the other side, some folk music is more tonal than another, and some drones are thus similar to harmonic pedals. The word ‘similar’ in this context refers to how long tones, pedals and drones, are perceived, how their ‘working’ is perceived.

In the 21st century, it seems more relevant than it was before, to take into consideration the listener’s perspective. This is the century where musicians are working in a different ‘cultural landscape’, as Dutch scholar Rineke Smilde points out. Some of the keywords of this new musical environment are multidisciplinarity, multiculturality, cross-genres, being open for new and non-traditional solutions. Being open includes having own relationship with various musical styles. Musical perceptions of a classically trained western musician (or a theorist) will always to a certain extent be mediated by her ‘western ears’. It seems desired and even necessary to consider these ‘mediated’ perceptions as relevant, when analyzing music. This makes the analyst open to try to understand the working of music also through a broadened theoretical language, and even in non-traditional ways. Related to the current topic, it makes possible to understand cross-stylistic musical interactions, and their influence on musical perception - of also long notes.

2) Second, having the two terms, pedal and drone, suggests there are exactly two variants of sustained sound. This does not reflect the fact that there is a whole variety of forms, and also a whole variety of effects that these forms can create. My research has started from pedal and drone, that were described as a harmonic process and a sonorous element (respectively). The problem of classification of long notes into one of the two categories has led to the establishment of concepts pedal-ness and drone-ness, as parameters that can describe any instance of long notes. These parameters make possible to describe the effect, without necessity to label the long tone as a pedal or a drone. The reader has perhaps noticed the difficulty that I have had at the moments when the logic of things implied using the word drone for the long notes in Das Rheingold and Frescobaldi’s Toccata sesta. In the language of western music theory, we use the word pedal. Application of the concepts pedal-ness and drone-ness, makes the whole issue about labels less relevant.

Analyzing fragments in a variety of musical styles has led to the conclusion that the two parameters are very useful, but not sufficient to describe the essence of some long notes. During the research, the realm of long notes has started to differentiate into discernable types: several types of harmonic pedals, and a couple of drone types. Next to these, I have defined also several types with low pedal-ness and low drone-ness, that seem not to be either of the two - although they are traditionally considered as being pedals (e.g. rhythmic pedal in the accompanying voices). The research has shown that the discussed types (models) are recognizable as such.

The differentiation into particular models is made on the basis of their ‘working’ or their ‘effect’, the way they are perceived. As a conceptual frame for analyzing their working, I have taken the Expectancy theories of Meyer and Margulis. They have proved to be useful tools for describing the differences between the types of pedal and drone. Bringing in the theories of expectation has helped explaining the tension that some pedals strongly incite and others do not (so strongly). Powerful harmonic pedals have strong harmonic forces that arouse very concrete expectation, and delay its realization (the effect is felt as denial-tension and expectation-tension). Expectational theories made possible to explain, at least in a certain extent, the difference in effect of harmonic pedals and foundational (and textural) drones. Referring to my first research question, the expectation-tension is responsible for the effect of many powerful harmonic pedals. Drones do not incite concrete expectations concerning consequent event. Between these two poles, harmonic pedals and textural drones, there are other types of pedals that do not seem to arouse particular expectations - except for this one: at the moment they are recognized as a particular type, the listener expects them to behave according to how that type of pedal usually behaves. In this case, the concept of expectation is involved on the level of the whole pattern (related to ‘behavior’ of both pedal tone and other voices), or on the level of structure (related to expectations of closure of a structural unit or arrival of an important thematic unit).


Expectations are always aroused in a particular musical context, that is defined in the perception of the listener. The context is formed on the bases of the perceived interactions of the musical events. Next to the presently sounding events, the actors in interactions are also various recognized patterns, or the patterns stored in the listener’s musical mind. The concept of interaction has proved valuable in the current research as it has provided a perspective for understanding how a particular context is formed. There are also links between expectations and interactions. For example, some conflicting interactions will incite an expectation of a resolution, while some others will turn the listener’s attention in a particular direction; some competitive interactions will make the listener having to choose between mutually exclusive interpretations, etc.

All the recognized interactions (or their effects) are important for the forming of meaning in music. Any recognized pattern is also an actor in the network of music. This research has led to twelve pedal/drone models, that are - as recognized patterns - interacting with the other musical events. When the context is formed around these interactions, there could be certain expectations concerning the further unfolding of music.

The possible contribution of this research is in enriching the vocabulary, in order to better articulate and distinguish between many facets of what is commonly named pedal/drone. In Lewin’s model, presented in the chapter Introductions, vocabulary (Language) is one of the four parameters of perception. Only the concepts stored in the database that the listener has acquired will influence the way she ‘understands’ the musical piece (or music of any style). The listener’s vocabulary can be implicit - it can consist of non-conceptualized experiences. The vocabulary of a music theorist must be explicit, in order to direct analysis, and provide the terms in which the interpretation will be articulated.

Being aware of various types of pedal/drone can fine-tune the analysis. However, there is the other side of the coin: if the result of having them in our theoretical vocabulary is just the convenience of easy labeling, then we are back to begin. Music analysis is about interpretation and the twelve pedal/drone categories are never meant to be a classification system. They are meant to foster an understanding of both the interactions that a long note has with the other musical events, and the effect that it has in the musical perception.

The twelve models, as described here, are providing information, but also ideas for approaching ‘too long’ notes. It is by no means intended to suggest that there are exactly twelve, and exactly these twelve categories. Some future research could focus deeper in each of the categories, and in comparing much more music, test the currently outlined descriptions. Examining the music (perception) of other styles and genres could provide interesting new insights, as it would shed light on the similar elements, from another perspective. 


Finally, the last of the Pedal Stories, ‘Epilogue’, has opened space for abstracting the concept of harmonic pedal from its original place (discussing long notes), and relate it to other fields of communication, such as poetry or literature in general. As an abstracted concept, it could be returned back to music to explain some other effects - like I have rather modestly attempted to do in the epilogue.