[Smt-talk] Plagal cadence

Peter Schubert, Prof. peter.schubert at mcgill.ca
Fri Apr 24 14:22:50 PDT 2009

Well, I took up the challenge and made a brief informal and frustrating survey. It's true that most of the time the final sonority after a phrygian cadence does come to rest eventually with E in the bass. There are some nice cadences with A in the bass in mid-piece (the beautiful and famous "Tulerunt Domine" of Michael of Verona in Glarean has one on the word "plangent"), but the only final cadence I found that has A in the bass under an E final is Josquin's "Credo vilayge."


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 Richard Porterfield
Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 11:24 AM
To: smt-talk smt
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Plagal cadence


I misspoke in regard to what constitutes the structural cadence in 16th-century music: David Cohen is of course correct that the bass does not participate in the essential counterpoint normally disposed between tenor (^^2-1)and cantus (^^7-8) in whatever mode. Thank you, David. 
The leaping bass (^^5-1 and/or ^^4-1) is part of cadential rhetoric, not structure, then. By the time Martini is writing a lot has changed. 
I do not know examples of 16th-century deuterus-mode pieces ending with the bass sustaining ^4 below the tenor. Clearly this is normal for the moment of cadence, but by the end the bass usually gets to the unison or octave below that structural voice. If anyone could give an example of this at the very end of a piece (the end of a prima pars doesn't count) I'd be grateful. 
Richard Porterfield
Mannes, CUNY GC
porterfr at hotmail.com  
> Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2009 13:00:38 -0400
> From: dec2101 at columbia.edu
> To: smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
> Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Plagal cadence
> Unless I'm mistaken, most if not all 16th-c. polyphonic works with E 
> as final *do* have, as their final "structural" cadence, not a 
> so-called plagal cadence, but a version of the approved M6-8ve 
> progression, which occurs, as it nearly always does anyway, in the 
> tenor (F-E) and the superius or cantus (d-e). It's the bass, which is 
> normally not involved in that 2-part progression anyway, that in the E 
> modes typically has D down to A, so that the octave E-e is supported 
> by the 5th below. (In the other modes, the M6 also occurs in the tenor 
> and superius, but with the semitone motion in the latter, while the 
> bass usually has some version of what we'd call a "5-1" motion; the 
> latter, of course, is impossible in the E modes because of the 
> diminished 5th between B and F; hence the usual alternative of D-A in 
> the bass.) The "plagal" motion, with the bass moving from A to E, may 
> then follow, but it's optional; some (I believe many) such pieces 
> conclude with A in the bass. All this reflects the 16th-century 
> understanding of the functional roles of the voices, in particular the 
> tenor. The bass (Zarlino's remarks about its being the foundation of 
> the texture notwithstanding) is not essential to the cadential 
> counterpoint.
> The association of the latter (A-E) motion in the bass with the 
> concept of "plagal" has never been clear to me, since what I've 
> described above is the common procedure for pieces conceived as being 
> in *either* of the E modes, plagal or authentic.
> On the other hand, in the 17th-c. lists of so-called "church keys," A 
> is often listed as the final for one of the keys that would be more or 
> less equivalent to one of the E modes; I've always thought that the 
> use of A in the bass at E-mode cadences is probably responsible for 
> that.
> Best,
> -David
> -------------
> David E. Cohen
> Associate Professor of Music
> Columbia University
> New York, NY 10027
> Quoting Richard Porterfield <porterfr at hotmail.com>:
> >
> >
> >
> > 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


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