[Smt-talk] BELGIAN +6

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 25 08:50:00 PST 2011

Dear Dmitri,
I feel that I have not delivered my position in full. Sorry for sending so many replies, this is definitely the last.
Your hearing of the three national chords as derived from the V/V seems very intriguing to me. Indeed, is there not an Fa# in each of them? My position, nevertheless, of considering them a part of subdominant function is based upon the fact that these adjacencies (Fa# to Sol, Re# to Mi) are the parts of different keys, not the given Do major. They belong to different geometries and different physics. There is the geometry of tonic (TSDT) and other neighboring spaces with their own tension-resolution patterns. For being a Dominant function, the chord must have a leading tone in a given key, and that is what exactly missing in German, French and Italian chords. So, I should say that French, German and Italian chords in the given key serve the role of Subdominant because the original chords from which they are derived are IV and ii, and because all three do not have the Leading Tone in the given key. The fact that the altered chords have tendencies to
 leave a given geometry does not change their function in the original space of TSDT. And the V/V is not their only tendency, if to be precise. 
You observed the placement of the German chord in variations. Strange choice! I completely agree with you that we have to observe the placement of a chord in order to analyze its structural meaning. However, it seems more logical to me to find the most common placement of the German chord, in preparation of the terminal dominant or a cadence. I make my final definition of it s Subdominant because it is placed in the 6th metric measure of the metric period. Or, like in Mozart concerti and sonatas, right before the Cadenza, resolving into the dominant in the main key.
There has been an objection earlier, that the three named chords cannot be the Subdominant because they do not have Fa, but Fa# instead. But, by the same logic, they cannot be the chords of the V/V because instead of Re the German chord has Re#. In this heavily chromaticized context we have to be content with the fact that all scale steps and chord members can be altered. I would like to reference a brilliant article by Severine Neff on Flat One in Schoenberg's String Quartet op. 10. So, in late-Romantic period even the roots and tonics can be altered. 
On the immediate peception level, the German chord sounds like the Dominant, but something strange precludes its interpretation as a Dominant. It is lacking the leading tone. The FUN, and EMBELLISHEMENT, which was mentioned ealier, happens when the substitution of Subdominant with the Dominant occurs. This trick explained the sudden change in the enharmonic modulation.

 From: Dmitri Tymoczko <dmitri at princeton.edu>
To: smt smt-talk <smt-talk at societymusictheory.org> 
Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 9:36 AM
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] BELGIAN +6
Ildar notes that 19th-century composers didn't use our standard names for augmented sixth chords, but I don't see this as a problem -- a name is just a name, and we are perfectly free to give whatever names we want to these chords.  Yes, they're cute and colorful, and yes, they have very little to do with the actual countries involved, but as long as everyone understands this, it's not a big problem.  (Besides I like making the joke that the Italian involves just tomato, basil, and mozzarella, the French clearly involves a complex sauce that simmered for hours, and the German is heavier than the Italian, with sausage and dark bread ...)  We have a long way to go before we compete with the physicists on the silly-name front ("quark," which is the sound of a raven, as filtered through Finnegan's Wake).

On Nov 22, 2011, at 8:48 PM, Ildar Khannanov wrote:

> For all the great composers and musicians of the 19th century, the chords with the augmented sixth had very important meaning. They all were the modifications of the simpler chords and, together with them, they belonged to the Subdominant function. 

This is actually not clear to me.  In my book, I suggest that one obvious way of testing this view is by looking at places where augmented sixths substitute for other chords -- for instance, sequences, variation movements, or sonata-form passages where the same music occurs in both major and minor.  In the vast majority of cases, augmented sixths replace applied dominant chords: for example, V/V in a major exposition becomes a German sixth in a minor recapitulation.  There are very, very few cases (in fact, almost none!) where an augmented sixth substitutes for a pure subdominant or predominant function.  My conclusion is that the augmented sixth has the function of a V/V chord -- which means it is a kind of altered dominant.

This view helps explain how the augmented-sixth type chords eventually come to act as primary dominants of I, in the music of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, etc.  It's a simple matter of taking a chord that used to act as the dominant of the dominant, and allowing it to act as the dominant of the tonic.  By contrast, the view that these chords are subdominants has the unhappy consequence that we need to postulate an entirely new chord, the "flat five dominant" of I, which just happens (coincidentally!) to relate to the "augmented sixth" in a systematic way.  It's much simpler to say they're just the same basic chord.


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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