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

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 26 11:49:20 PST 2010

Dear Colleagues,
I have been rereading Zarlino's The Art of Counterpoint, looking for a chapter, or a paragraph, defining passing or neighbor tones. I could not find anything in this translation. However, I have stumbled upon the following passage in which Zarlino expresses his attitue toward diminution, the principle which we discuss as governing all the levels of composition:
Quote: Matters for the singer to observe are these. First of all he must aim dilligently to perform what the composer has written. He must not be like those who, wishing to be though worthier and wiser than their colleaugues, indulge in certain divisions (diminutioni) that are so savage and so inappropriate that they not only annoy the hearer but are ridden with thousands of errors...
Both Zarlino's The Art of Counterpoint and Tinctoris's The Art of Counterpoint are devoted primarily to note-against-note, simple counterpoint, or, in terms of Fux, the 1st specie. (Syncopation is covered in Zarlino's book, but it is the device which is different from neighbor and passing notes).
I am not interested, at this point, in "superficial familiarity with Palestrina's scores." It, indeed, can be superficial, especially because there were no scores at that time. What is important, however, is how the theorists and the composers of that period understood their music.
Dr. Ildar Khannanov
Professor of Music Theory
Peabody Institute
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

--- On Tue, 1/26/10, Olli Väisälä <ovaisala at siba.fi> wrote:

From: Olli Väisälä <ovaisala at siba.fi>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] "Core syntax" and 6/4 chords etc.
To: "Ildar Khannanov" <solfeggio7 at yahoo.com>, "smt-talk smt" <smt-talk at societymusictheory.org>
Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2010, 1:19 AM

> It there is no consonant chord, the triad, there are no neighbor notes.. Where did you find passing tones in music of Palestrina and before? There are some notes which do not coincide with other notes in other voices. But what do you compare them with? Triads? Tonic triad? You have been reading too much of Fux, the most anachronistic and unreliable source on counterpoint. Neighbor note and passing note are two attributes of tonal-functional harmony. They do not exist outside the context of Tonic triad, Subdominant triad and the Dominant seventh chord.

Dear Ildar,

Let me assure that my knowledge of Renaissance music is not based on "reading too much of Fux." Even a superficial familiarity with the scores of Palestrina reveals that the most common type of unaccented dissonance is the one preceded and followed by a step in the same direction. This is the definition of passing tone in the sense I was referring to. Is there still something unclear?

(Perhaps the definition of dissonance in Palestrina? In relation to the bass: 2s, 4s, 7s, their compounds, and all augmented and diminished intervals. Between upper voices: 2s and 7s with compounds. From these rules it follows that the all three-note consonances (with no doublings) are 5/3 or 6/3 chords.)

Olli Väisälä
Sibelius Academy
ovaisala at siba.fi

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