[Smt-talk] French chord figuring [was: Re: Written record of Boulanger pedagogy?]

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Sun Dec 19 10:54:17 PST 2010

This figuring certainly is in Catel, in 1801-1802. It originates in 
18th-century continuo figuring, where + is a possible form of #, but I 
do not know (yet) whether late-18th-century French treatises, e.g. 
Rodolphe's which has been in use at the Conservatoire (and probably 
already in the École royale) before Catel's, make use of similar figurings.

Lowell Mason's American translation of Catel, of 1832, is available at 
http://www.archive.org/details/atreatiseonharm00masogoog. I don't have 
my French copy of Catel at hand just now to make exact comparisons but, 
if my memory of Catel is correct, Mason makes a more restricted use of 
the +. It appears among others on p. 147, where the text explains that 
7+ means a dominant above a tonic pedal, in which case indeed the 7th of 
the tonic is the leading tone (and where Mason or Catel add in a NB at 
the bottom of the page that 7/+ would denote a dominant 7th).

But in other French texts, I met +7 denoting the (4th species, major) 
seventh on degree I, where the 7th itself almost necessarily is a 
descending, passing 7th. This really makes little sense.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 19/12/2010 18:43, Michele Ignelzi a écrit :
> Dear Nicolas,
> I agree with you that structure (a legitimate object of analysis, I'd 
> say) and function of chords should remain distinct. But we have other 
> means than (Hindu-Arabic numeral) figuring to express function...
> By the way, do you or others on the list know who used that figuring 
> first? I'm not aware of anyone before Dubois...
> Best regards,
> Michele
> On Dec 19, 2010, at 3:48 PM, Nicolas Meeùs wrote:
>> The problem with that figuring is that one tends to mistake label (or 
>> form) for function. It all depends on how the figuring is performed. 
>> If +6 becomes a label for any chord in the form of a dominant 7th in 
>> second inversion, then the figuring loses any analytical value, IMO. 
>> The + should be used exclusively to denote a leading tone that 
>> resolves as a leading tone; but our students do not restrict it to 
>> that particular case!
>> Nicolas Meeùs
>> Université Paris-Sorbonne
> ---------------------
> Michele Ignelzi
> m.ignelzi at tin.it
> Florence State Conservatory, Italy
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