[Smt-talk] Passing and Neighboring 6/4s

Eytan Agmon agmonz at 012.net.il
Fri Jan 22 06:32:44 PST 2010

Dmitri wrote:

"In the case of Aldwell and Schachter, it's worth reiterating that an  
intelligent student, carefully reading their text, could scarcely  
avoid coming away with the following beliefs:

1) That V6/4 is more common than any other passing 6/4.
2) That IV6->I6/4->ii6/5 is more common than IV6->I6/4->ii6."

An "intelligent student" will first of all read Aldwell and Schachter's
statements in context.

In his original post Dmitri took A&S's statement "of the various types of
passing 6/4's, the most important is V6/4 connecting I and I6" completely
out of context, neglecting to mention (apparently deliberately) that shortly
thereafter they state "a passing 6/4 between IV6 and II6/5 (less often II6)
is *very frequent*" (original italics).

Now, since A&S obviously do not equate "important" with "frequent," what
possibly do they mean by their first statement? Well, one has to read the
entire sentence:

"Of the various types of passing 6/4's, the most important is V6/4
connecting I and I6, as in Example 19-4 in the last half of bar 2 [Mozart's
sonata K. 330, II, which apparently contains two of Dmitri's four
Mozart-sonata examples of a passing V6/4, one in each of the two A-sections,
unless one counts the repeat of the first A-section, in which case there are
three], where V6/4 forms a stepwise connection between I6 and I5/3 (*compare
VII6 and V4/3*)" (italics added). In other words, V6/4 is "the most
important" type of passing 6/4 not because, as Dmitri believes, it is the
most common, but because *it is comparable in many ways to VII6 V4/3.* A&S
are not making a *statistical* observation, let alone an observation
concerning a particular style or composer or genre; they are making an
observation concerning the tonal language as such. In particular, an
"intelligent student" will be able to infer in the Mozart example a
connection between the V6/4 of b. 2 and the V4/3 of b. 6, which although
strongly accented, functions similarly to b. 2 as a connection between two
positions of the tonic triad (now relative to the key of the dominant).

When A&S subsequently state that II6/5 is a more frequent goal than II6 for
a passing I6/4 coming from IV6, well, first of all they may be statistically
correct, as Olli has pointed out in connection with Bach chorales. However,
I suspect that here, too, A&S do not have *literal* frequency in mind. From
a voice-leading point of view, it is natural to retain ^1 as a common tone
throughout the progression, resulting in II6/5 rather than II6. Indeed, even
if II6 is expressed on the surface, a II6/5 is often implied. Consider mm.
25-31 of the first movement of Mozart's C major Sonata, K. 279. In m. 27,
unlike m. 26, Mozart goes IV6-I6/4-II6, and this progression is probably
entered as such in Dmitri's statistics (even though the starting point of
this passage is II6/5, not II6). However, in the parallel passage in the
recap., mm. 86-92, the missing seventh is supplied in the right-hand part,
mm. 89-90.

Eytan Agmon
Bar-Ilan University

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list