[Smt-talk] Follow-up RE: Plagal cadence

John McKay jzmckay at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 24 23:24:59 PDT 2009

The term occurs earlier in Tartini's "Trattato di musica" of 1754, pp. 102-103, where he refers to it as the "cadenza aritmetica," and once as the "cadenza Aritmetica Plagale".  There, it is defined in terms of descending fourth bass motion; he doesn't write out the progression in full.

The term "plagal cadence" entered English before 1800 (cf. Encyclopedia Britannica of 1797, s.v. "Mode", where the term is used ambiguously, but seems to refer to a similar harmonic progression), and a number of treatises in the first decades of the 19th century have detailed descriptions.  Many of these can be easily found in a basic Google Books search.  I believe some of these early 19th-century treatises cite Tartini as the origin of the term, but I'm not sure of that.

John McKay

Doctoral Student
Harvard University

--- On Thu, 4/23/09, Richard Porterfield <porterfr at hotmail.com> wrote:

> From: Richard Porterfield <porterfr at hotmail.com>
> Subject: [Smt-talk] Follow-up RE:  Plagal cadence
> To: "smt-talk smt" <smt-talk at societymusictheory.org>
> Date: Thursday, April 23, 2009, 2:30 PM
> Martini, Esemplare, o sia saggio fondamentale pratico di
> contrappunto sopra il canto fermo (Bologna, 1774-75) vol. 1,
> 18-19: "la Cadenza Plagale" passes [in the bass]
> by fourth to the fundamental, whereas "la Cadenza
> Ordinaria" passes by fifth. Both kinds of cadence are
> employed in both authentic and plagal modes by the
> "Maestri dell Arte," and he lists pieces by Porta
> and Palestrina as examples. Further references at pp. 42,
> 53-54, and in the subject index (!) under "Cadenza
> Plagale" and "Cadenze Regolari" 243-44. 
> Richard Porterfield
> Mannes, CUNY GC
> porterf at hotmail.com 
> From: porterfr at hotmail.com
> To: smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
> Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2009 03:38:59 +0000
> Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Plagal cadence
> 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). 
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