[Smt-talk] Classical Form and Recursion

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 30 10:49:52 PDT 2009

Dear Nicolas,
thank you very much for a very informative and friendly response. There are no fundamental disagreements in our positions. I also find it fascinating how much attention is given to voice leading in North American theory, something which was taken for granted by me in Russia. I aould like to add also that your position is exlusive because you are working in the middle of Europe with the views on voice leading similar to North American. You can see more and farther from your standpoint.
It seems to me that in the course of present discussion we can come up with something truly comprehensive and miltiplicit. And yes, we should include the basso fondamentale into our discussion. It was an excellent discovery of its time. As fo visual metaphors, philosophers struggle with them, but they are unavoidable. I just wanted to make sure that this character of our discussion of musical space is taken into consideration.
Peabody Conservatory
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

--- On Mon, 3/30/09, Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr> wrote:

From: Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Classical Form and Recursion
To: "Ildar Khannanov" <solfeggio7 at yahoo.com>
Cc: "smt-talk Talk" <smt-talk at societymusictheory.org>
Date: Monday, March 30, 2009, 3:09 AM

Dear Ildar,

Ildar Khannanov a écrit : 

I apologize for being a bit straighforward with my definition of D, S, and T. Mine is not an absolute view.There is no need to apologize, and I do not mean "absolute" in any disparaging or contemptuous way. The absolute view of harmonic functions is the very common one for which the function resides in the chord itself; the relative view places it in the interchordal relation. This is an old story, which Robert Wason adequately described (in Viennese Harmonic Theory) when he wrote that "unlike German theory, which was preoccupied with chord quality and direct relation of chords to a tonal center by harmonic processes, the Viennese theory was concerned primarily with the allowable progression of the fundamental bass and the interpretation of chords in relation to local contexts of progression" (p. xiii).

[...] However, there must be the way out of this cercle. Ths is why I suggested that Tonic is Tonic because it is Tonic. Dominant is Dominant, even if in many cases it is left unresolved (Wagner/Scriabin).  I side with Dmitri on the  exigency of multiple sources. He calls it compatibilism, I use heterogeneite and multiplicite. And the history of music shows us that the origins of our concepts are multiple.Indeed. And, even more, the history of music shows that there is place for competing, complementary views. I do not claim that functions certainly reside in interchordal relations, I merely said that this is my present way of looking at the matter. I feel all the more authorized to do so that I know that others view the matter otherwise: together, we may approach a necessarily heterogenous and multiple image to represent such a complex matter.

In this sense, I see no problems identifying l'accord parfait not necessarly by its placement in the environment of other chords, but as a sort of religious-philosophical construct, pure perfection. This is how French textbooks define it: it is a combination of a perfect fifth and a third.I would not consider French textbooks as models, especially on this point. I mentioned before what I consider a typical French excessive absolutism, consisting in bestowing a function on a chord merely because of its form: I mentioned the case of Jean Barraqué reading a V7/Eb in bar 5 of the Prelude à L'Après-midi d'un faune and, even worse, deducing from there a tonality of Eb ! (see my Music Analysis paper, vol. 21/2, p. 168). For a similar reason, some of my students hear German sixths not as altered V/V, but as V/bII !

As for tonal spaces, regions and placement of chords, do we realize that we are dealing with poetic metaphors here? [...] What you mean by tonal space is technical description of a playing surface (again very different on many instruments and non-existent in voice) and the paper and ink plane. As if Heidegger did not spent his life struggling with visual metaphors as a substitution in the question of Being and Husserl did not fight with transplanting terms from one scientific jargon to another. 
Let us continue using visual metaphors, but let us also be cautious of their poetic-metaphoric character (I nod to Michael Spitzer).But, Idlar, don't you think that the idea of tonal function itself is metaphoric? As is that of recursion, by the way...

One point about which many of us agree (on SMT-talk, at least; I have more problems about that with my French colleagues ;-) is the necessity to to take voice leading in account in our descriptions of harmony and tonality. However, to deal with harmony and voice leading together is a tricky matter. The visual metaphor of the Tonnetz proved rather effective, but it may lead to excesses (I find the idea of tonal space somewhat excessive). Another metaphor with the same purpose, with the advantage of simplicity (and of not being a visual one), but somewhat despised lately, is that of the fundamental bass. In both cases (in the Tonnetz as in the FB), what is represented is an abstract, parcimonious voice leading (or that which Dmitri calls "efficient"). And both metaphors would offer convenient ways of describing recursivity.


Nicolas Meeùs
nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr

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