[Smt-talk] "Core syntax" and 6/4 chords etc.

Dmitri Tymoczko dmitri at princeton.edu
Tue Jan 26 07:05:44 PST 2010

Sigh ...

Though I have sworn off this conversation, my last point contained a  
mistake.  As Olli and others have (privately) pointed out, you can  
have a second species (A, C)->(G, C)->(F, A) progression, with C as  
cantus firmus.  Sorry about that.  What I should have said was that  
the progression (C, E, G)->(B, D, F)->(A, C, F)->(G, C, E)->(F, A ,D)  
does not conform to Renaissance voice-leading norms as I understand  
them.  It would be unusual to have this series of chords in equal- 
length durations, with all but one of which were consonances.  (I'd be  
curious to see Renaissance examples, if anyone has them.)  In this  
sense, I consider the chord progression to be a genuinely tonal idiom,  
one that is not explained by voice leading practices shared with the  
Renaissance.  In my view, the actual harmonies here are important --  
the "passing 6/4" occurs in particular places, rather than being a  
more general practice.
	Again, sorry for the error -- I post a lot, and though I try to check  
what I write, a few clunkers are going to slip through.

Daniel Wolf brought up the analogy with baseball, which I think is  
quite apt.  Among baseball people, there has been a turn toward  
statistical thinking, prompted by the work of Bill James, Billy Beane,  
and others.  (The book "Moneyball" is a useful introduction.)   
Statistics suggest that intuition and observation can be wrong in  
interesting ways: for instance, Derek Jeter, though he looks graceful,  
has historically been mediocre defensively.  Similarly, JD Drew, who  
often walks in clutch situations, is actually more valuable than he  
seems according to traditional metrics.  Here too, the statistical  
approach has many detractors, who feel that it gives short shrift to  
intuition.  The issues are in some ways quite parallel to those we  
have been discussing.
	Of course, all parties to this discussion agree that there are truths  
about which baseball players are good and which are bad, and that  
these truths can be known; the question is about whether intuition or  
statistics provides a more reliable avenue toward discovering them.   
In academia, the analogous statements are themselves open to  
question.  Which just goes to show how difficult the challenge is.


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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