[Smt-talk] Plagal cadence

Donna Doyle donnadoyle at att.net
Thu Apr 23 05:41:04 PDT 2009

Catel, in his 1802 Traite (the first harmony text for the Paris  
Conservatory), refers to the 'plagal' cadence (p. 34).
Masson, in 1699, demonstrates it (p. 99); and Rameau discusses it in  
several places as one of his 'irregular'
or 'imperfect' cadences.

Donna Doyle
Aaron Copland School of Music
Queens College
65-30 Kissena Blvd.
Flushing, NY  11367

tele: 718-997-3819
fax:  718-997-3849
email: donna.doyle at qc.cuny.edu
email: donnadoyle at att.net


On Apr 22, 2009, at 11:38 PM, Richard Porterfield wrote:

> Padre Martini discusses the plagal cadence in his Esemplare, o sia  
> saggio fondamentale pratico di contrappunto sopra il canto fermo  
> (Bologna, 1774-75). His use of the term (in Italian) is the earliest  
> I've seen. I believe he says something to the effect that this  
> cadence is not restricted to plagal modes, but that he hints at a  
> connection. Sorry I can't give you a page or volume number (two  
> volumes).
> In 16th-century music the supplementum Peter Schubert mentions is  
> indeed very common as a coda prolonging the melodic final after the  
> structural authentic cadence. The authentic cadence is not possible,  
> however, in the deuterus modes 3 and 4 (so-called "Phrygian"). The  
> simplest solution is for the tenor's semitonal descent F-E to be  
> matched by the bass D-E, a linear-contrapuntal progression from  
> minor 3rd to unison, or sometimes d-e in the tenor, F-E in the bass:  
> major 6th to octave.
> Often, however, the bass does not move directly to the final E, but  
> to A (or a) a perfect fifth under the tenor E (or e), before leaping  
> by descending 4th to the final -- what Martini later calls the  
> plagal cadence.
> Zarlino says that m3-unison and M6-octave actions are true cadences;  
> he also mentions motions resolving to the perfect 5th instead of the  
> octave (which of course is what I've just described): he classes  
> them among the "imperfect cadences," which he says are not actually  
> cadences, strictly speaking ("Et benche ve ne siano alcune altre,  
> che finiscono per la Quinta, et alcune altre per la Terza, et alcune  
> per diuerse altre consonanze; non sono però da esser dette  
> assolutamente Cadenze, se non ad vn certo modo, et con vna  
> aggiuntione, cioè Cadenze imperfette" Le istitutioni harmoniche,  
> Part 3: 221 http://www.chmtl.indiana.edu/smi/cinquecento/ZAR58IH3_TEXT.html) 
> . I believe he does not address the plagal cadence directly.
> In answer to Cristobal's second question, it's clear that  
> Renaissance composers felt that the plagal cadence on its own was  
> "conclusive enough to end a work," in modes 3 and 4, at least. It  
> would be interesting to look at Zarlino's Mode-3 and -4 compositions  
> (he lists several in Part 4, Chs. 20-21) to see how he reconciles  
> his theory with practice.
> Richard Porterfield
> Instructor, Mannes College; Ph.D. Candidate in Music Theory, CUNY GC
> porterfr at hotmail.com
> Date: Wed, 22 Apr 2009 16:30:27 -0400
> From: peter.schubert at mcgill.ca
> To: garciagallardo at terra.es; smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
> Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Plagal cadence
> In a most repertoire the final is in fact approached by the usual  
> 6-8 motions you describe, but the final is often sustained in one  
> voice. This is the coda-like thing that Burmeister calls the  
> supplementum – he says these motions “make it very clear that the  
> ending has arrived” (Rivera’s translation, p. 151 ). The so-called  
> plagal cadence generally results from the oblique motions that occur  
> while the final is being sustained. Sometimes the final is only  
> virtually sustained, with all voices moving, but the effect is the  
> same.
> What I’d like to know is where this term occurs for the first time.  
> I don’t recall seeing it in any treatise in the sixteenth century or  
> even the early 17th. My bet is French treatises from the late 17th- 
> early 18th cc.
> Peter Schubert, Chair
> Department of Music Research
> Schulich School of Music
> McGill University
> From: smt-talk-bounces at societymusictheory.org [mailto:smt-talk-bounces at societymusictheory.org 
> ] On Behalf Of Cristóbal García
> Sent: Saturday, April 18, 2009 2:34 PM
> To: smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
> Subject: [Smt-talk] Plagal cadence
> Dear List,
> I would like to ask about plagal cadence in 16th (and 15th) century  
> music. What is interesting to me is the fact that this cadence seems  
> to escape the basic cadential process of this kind of music: the  
> progress from an imperfect to a perfect consonance (usually major  
> 6th to octave) in a two-voice framework (usually proceeding stepwise  
> by contrary motion), typically preceded by a dissonance (the 7th as  
> a suspension).
> I have two main questions:
> Does somebody know about theoretical explanations of the plagal  
> cadence in 16th century music?
> Was plagal cadence seen as conclusive enough by itself to end a work  
> (since it is usually preceded by a more usual cadence)?
> (I must say that I’m not an expert on 16th century music theory – 
> though I´ve read on the subject-, so forgive me if these are too  
> simple questions)
> Thanks,
> Cristobal Garcia-Gallardo
> Conservatorio de Malaga (Spain)
> garciagallardo at terra.es
> Rediscover Hotmail®: Get e-mail storage that grows with you. Check  
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