[Smt-talk] Harmonic functions (was Classical Form and Recursion)

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 14 20:07:43 PDT 2009

Dear Nicolas,
thank you very much for your clarification of the aspects of tonal-harmonic functions. I am glad that we can discuss this important topic on the list. 
Yes, I have certain 'formation" and cannot complain about it. I agree with you that the question of supertonic, its function, is not a simple one. German theorists are still leaning toward the Funktionstheorie. From my conversation with Dr. Ludwig Holtmeier  in Freiburg I have learned that he did not mind the "Es Zwei" as he called it at all. SII seems to be redundant, but it clearly states that scale step 2 has the function of Subdominant. This is not clear from Roman Numerals alone. For example, V is just a cadinal number, which means five objects, five eggs, five cars, etc. It can be interpreted as an ordinal number (the fifth in the row), but then it also does not tell anything about being the Dominant.
I really liked your quote from Campion. If you do not mind, I will use it in my classes at Peabody. Indeed, if my students in Ear Training will learn how to discern the local leading tones in a four-part texture, to hear the leading tone in any of the inner voices, this will guarantee that they will understand digressions and modulations by ear. My colleague at Peabody, Dr.. Vern Falby teaches a course Thinking by Ear. I am his supporter. 
I am not surprised that Schenker has derided the French tradition. He seems to deride everything and everybody around. To compare the statement of Campion  with "the blind people sliding their hands on the wall" is fun, but the joke misses its target: in music, it is better to be blind, than tone deaf. I teach a blind student: she is a brilliant musician. She can hear the slightest changes in harmony, including digressions and possible leading tones. She has never seen the Ursatz and will probably never see it. I could care less about that.
Schenker has derided Simon Sechter as well. In Kontrapunkt, book 1, he mentions the name of Sechter in passing, without even providing his first name, as follows: "One need only compare Sechter's work, for instance, with my own to recognize that the practical artistic purpose of generating and increasing content is better served by the psychology of scale degree progressions as I present it, and that my theory presents viewspoints on issues of chromaticism and alterations which are far more pure, unified and compelling." (p. xxxi of the Author's Preface). That is pretty much all  Schenker had to say about Sechter. I could not find any more references to Sechter in Freie Satz, Harmonielehre and Kontrpunkt. I  also remember reading another footnote, in which Schenker expresses his anger at the teachers at the Vienna conservatory. 
Simon Sechter does not belong to the same category as Riemann or Rameau. His achievements in music theory are much more modest. One book (in three volumes) and few smaller texts and a couple of  compositions. Nothing to compare with the output of Riemann. I teach at the oldest conservatory in the United States. Our library is filled with books of Riemann, Reameau and Marx. I could not find Sechter. And many other libraries in the country carry stacks of Riemann. After all, if not for him and Guido Adler, we would not have our precious jobs at the Universities. So, maybe "scale step theory" exists only in the minds of its followers?
As for the conceptual difficulty of connecting S and D, it is ultimately exagerrated. Has it become less difficult conceptually to connect these sonorities after the S has been renamed into Predominant? 
As for tension/relaxation and mysterious cognitive mechanism behind functions, your placement of this statement between "scale step theory of Sechter" and tonal functional theory of Riemann will be more fun to deal with if you accept that such mechanism has been described by....Schenker in his Harmonielehre. He writes there about the "biological urge" of dissonant chords to resolve.  
In general, I would not trust so much Schenker's judgements concerning history of music theory. He was a great Phantaseur, but is there any record that he took a course in history of music theory? His view of the 18th century is unsustainable. He overlooked the two main achievements of the first half of it: musical rhetoric and the science of harmony.
Best wishes,
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
We, in Paris, do teach that ii and II before V behave in the same way, and we consider it dangerous to teach otherwise. This is because of a particularly French context, where our students have been taught in their Conservatoire that any accidental creates a modulation. This too is the result of a three-century old tradition: François Campion (the theorist of the Règle de l'octave) claimed already in 1716 that "tout dièse extraordinaire fait sortir du ton" ("any accidental sharp induces a change of key"). Schenker derided this French tradition. The French, he said, are like blind people: they guide themselves by sliding the hand along the wall, of which they feel each asperity.




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