[Smt-talk] waffling with the BELGIAN +6

Michael Morse mwmorse at bell.net
Mon Nov 21 14:05:58 PST 2011

DT:> I believe that Stephen Jablonsky is talking about the chord (in C major) Ab-C-E-F#, which starts life as an F# half-diminished but, upon acquiring a lowered third, becomes a (sounding) "augmented triad with a minor seventh."  It's a pretty rare chord because the two common tones weaken the resolution to I6/4, while the E->D weakens the resolution to V.  So it's not obviously superior to the more standard forms.<
Isn't the latter progression better spelled with Gb than F#? At least if the chord moves to V7. I'm also a bit confused, albeit fascinated, by the way that classical theory generates voice-leading based "sonorities" that function as chords, but are extremely awkward in terms of nomenclature, hard to classify behaviourally. The jazz world, which has long been dealing with "agglomerations" as complex as the Tristan chord and beyond (if not yet as unclassifiable as the stacks in Schoenberg's opus 11) deals with chords in a way that is at once rough and ready, yet eminently, riemannianly rational: all chords, even the fourth chords heavily favoured in modal jazz, are treated as third stacks on top of a (sometimes rather notional) root. This is because jazz harmony, in terms of named chords, always proceeds from perceived function. Duke Ellington's writing brims as much as any post-wagnerian composer's with unclassifiable sonorities; but they are either in composed ensemble passages (where chordal identity doesn't matter, and can indeed be produced purely by voice leading considerations), or rounded to the nearest coherent function. Even in this complex music, the voice-leading is never treated as the a priori basis for the harmony; that role is always allotted to function, again however notionally de jure function may be.
Where I'm going with this is to wonder whether a bit of jazz's brusque common sense mightn't help here analytically. What say ye, o collective wisdom, to calling the chord in question a Belgian or New Jersey or Shangri-la sixth if it resolves to I 6/4--but VI7 if it resolves to V or, especially, V7?
MW MorseTrent UniversityPeterborough, Oshawa
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