[Smt-talk] Sequences

karst de jong karstdj at xs4all.nl
Thu Mar 5 14:04:57 PST 2009

Hello all,

I believe that this so called 'Waldstein sequence' is rooted in the
seventeenth century, when fifth-up and minor-third up (right) progressions
were more common. A beautiful example can be found in the theme of
Sweelinck's chromatic fantasia.

These progressions gradually dissapear in common practice harmony, where
descending fifths and minor-third down progressions seem to become the



professor of Music Theory and Improvisation//
Royal Conservatoire of The Hague, The Netherlands
Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain//
karstdj at xs4all.nl

On Mar 5, 2009, at 5:35 PM, Elizabeth Sayrs wrote:

There's a nice ascending "minor thirds" sequence with a little twist in
Verdi's Requiem, "Dies Irae," mm. 330-336; it moves up through the
dominants (w/cadential 6/4's) of E-flat, G-flat, and A, and then comes out
on a root position C major (using a common tone as the explicit link
between each unit of the sequence). But again, it uses transpositional
ascending voice leading rather than the descending voice leading you're
looking for.

Another example of a sequence where the typical part-writing is opposite
the smoothest idealized voice leading is the ubiquitous descending fifth
sequence. We usually associate descending part writing with the descending
fifths sequence, but it has idealized ascending voice leading. See Wolf's
"Nun wandre, Maria" for an example that uses the ascending as well as the
descending voice leading options.

Re: the Waldstein, the middle section of Schubert's "Pause" has always
reminded of the opening of the Waldstein, without being explicitly
sequential. Starting m. 20, the first phrase moves from Gm--DM (g: I – V),
 the second from FM--CM (F: I—V) [all very locally]. Then you even get the
semitone flip from C major to C minor in m. 26 to de-dominantize C and
turn it back into a local subdominant (as Beethoven does locally in the
Waldstein moving from IV-iv as part of the chromatic descending bass). But
there are some important differences, too – too many to go into here.

It's fun to note that Tovey found this progression so typical, he wrote:
"[E]ver since Beethoven's 'Waldstein' Sonata [and his earlier G major, op.
31, no. 1], flat-VII has become the stalking-horse for the subdominant."
(The Main Stream of Music and Other Essays)


On Mar 3, 2009, at 3:28 PM, Jeremy Day-O'Connell wrote:

"Waldstein"/"Hey Joe" sequence appears also at the beginning of Aretha
Franklin's "Natural Woman" (which is similarly expressive of a
mournful/sinking text).

- - - - - - - - - -
Jeremy Day-O'Connell
Assistant Professor, Music
Knox College
Box K-95
Galesburg, IL 61401

(309) 341-7301
jdayocon at knox.edu
fax (309) 341-7605

On Mar 3, 2009, at 9:06 AM, Dmitri Tymoczko wrote:

Thanks for the sequence suggestions, everybody.

Jay Hook also noted two other very clear ascending minor-third sequences:

1. Grieg, first Norwegian Dance, middle section.
2. Tchaikovsky, Symphony 4, movement 2, m. 110

Interestingly, in almost all of the sequences mentioned so far, the
voice-leading is (mostly) parallel and ascending.  This suggests to me
that composers typically think of the ascending minor-third sequence in
harmonic rather than contrapuntal terms -- at least, they don't seem to be
interested in exploiting the potential for *descending* voice leading.

A cool example of the "Waldstein" sequence C-G6-Bb-F6 is "Hey Joe" (which
I know only in the Hendrix version: C-G-D-A-E).  Here the descending
stepwise voice leading is very clear, both in the melody and the upper
guitar strings, and perhaps contributes to the mournful "sinking" feeling
("I'm going down ...").  The effective-but-unusual ascending fifths
harmonies were always a bit of a mystery to me, but they perhaps make more
sense if you think in terms of voice leading.


Dmitri Tymoczko
Associate Professor of Music
310 Woolworth Center
Princeton, NJ 08544-1007
(609) 258-4255 (ph), (609) 258-6793 (fax)

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Elizabeth Sayrs, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Music Theory
591A Glidden
Ohio University

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