[Smt-talk] Plagal cadence

Cristóbal García garciagallardo at terra.es
Sun Apr 19 02:50:26 PDT 2009

Peter Schubert wrote:


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.


Thanks a lot. This has been very helpfull. I've been reading this explanation of Burmeister in his Musica poetica (1606) and it is really clear. I wonder if there are some other explanations of this kind in other 16th century theorists.


Richard Porterfield wrote:

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.

The bass move D-A under the usual major 6th-octave intervallic progression (F-E in the tenor against D-E in the cantus) is just one of the possible ways to fill the four-voice texture, and not the most usual one. Bernhard Meier deals with this at some length in The Modes of Classical Vocal Polyphony (p. 96-99). He also mentions some examples of works ending this particular way (p. 98, footnote 19): Isaac's "Ich stund an einem Morgen", Lapicida's "Es lebt mein Herz", Heintz's "Da trunken sie", Josquin's "Plane de deuil" and "En non saichenat", Festa's "Quit dabit oculis" and two anonimous 15th century works.


Richard Porterfield wrote:

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. 


Well, I'm not so sure about that. For sure, modes 3 and 4 can be somewhat different in this. But I wonder if there isn't a previous "usual" cadende in most cases. This is indeed the case of In me transierunt de Lasso, analysed by Burmeister as a typical example of his supplementum. As for other modes, it seems difficult to find a plagal cadence end without a previous (7)-6-8 usual cadence; I think I found one in Tye's In nomine "Crye" (it is in the Norton Anthology of Western Music, 2nd edition), but possibly this instrumental work is not very representative. Does somebody know of any other cases?


David Cohen wrote:

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.


The origin of the the church keys has to do a lot with the singing of psalms (and other pieces with similiar tones like the Magnificat) accompanied by the organ. In fact, the 3rd psalm tone usual ending in A (instead of the modal E) explains this 3rd church key with final on A.


Thanks everyone for your answers,


Cristobal Garcia-Gallardo

Conservatorio de Malaga (Spain)

garciagallardo at terra.es

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