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

dec2101 at columbia.edu dec2101 at columbia.edu
Tue Jan 26 16:05:51 PST 2010

The passage cited by Timoth McKinney in Zarlino, _Le Istitutioni  
harmoniche_, III.42, on p. 95 of the Marco/Palisca translation, is  
pretty far from expressing the concept of "passing tone" as we now  
understand, or even as it is understood in, say, Bernhard (c.1660s),  
where the term denoting is _transitus_. Zarlino comes a bit closer to  
this concept a little earlier in the same chapter (bottom of p. 93 of  
the translation):

"At times, too, the composer may alternate consonant and dissonant  
minims, taking care however that the consonant ones fall on the  
downbeat and the dissonant ones on the upbeat of the measure, and that  
they progress continually down or up in strict conjunct movement  
through many steps."

Zarlino's prescriptions of weak(er) beat and stepwise motion are  
stated many times in this chapter. It's the phrase "continually down  
or up," here, that suggests passing tones, properly speaking, as  
opposed to neighbors. Here's the original Italian of this passage:

"Potra anco alle volte il Contrapuntista porre scambievolmente due  
minime, delle quali l'una sia consonante, & l'altra dissonante; pur  
che la consonante caschi nel battere, & la dissonante nel levar la  
battuta: ma debbeno procedere verso il grave, overo verso l'acuto per  
molti gradi continouati senza alcun movimento separato."

The Marco/Palisca rendering is somewhat free, but certainly accurate  
with respect to the qualification that the ascending or descending  
motion is "continuous," which I take to mean uni-directional. Hence,  
PT's, not N-notes.

On the other hand, this is hardly a sufficiently precise or explicit  
definition of "passing tone," and in general I have the impression  
that Zarlino, and 16th-century counterpoint pedagogues generally, do  
not distinguish carefully (if at all) between PT and N-note. Zarlino  
certainly has no terminological means to make that distinction.


-David E. Cohen
Columbia University

Quoting "McKinney, Timothy R." <Timothy_McKinney at baylor.edu>:

> On 1/26/10 1:49 PM, "Ildar Khannanov" <solfeggio7 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> 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...
> For passing tones, see the first full paragraph on p. 95 of the   
> Marco/Palisca translation (chap. 42), and the example on the   
> following page.
> Timothy R. McKinney
> Associate Professor
> Baylor University
> Timothy_McKinney at baylor.edu
> --
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