[Smt-talk] "Neighboring" 6/4 Chords

donnadoyle donnadoyle at att.net
Sun Oct 2 06:11:48 PDT 2011

Dear Matt,

In answer to your query, see, for ex., Aldwell-Schachter's ch 19 (3rd  
ed) re 6/4s. Is what you're calling a neighbor 6/4 actually a  
"passing" one? (N 6/4's have pedal basses, e. g., the opening of  
"Silent Night.") If your question actually is, "Why did composers  
rarely use the 'passing' 6/4 on scale degree 2 to expand I?," it's  
well-taken. Perhaps the reason has something to do with the dissonant  
4th above the bass sounding bare without the 'soft' 3rd [CPE]. Or with  
the compelling action of the tritone degrees 7-4. (CPE gives short  
shrift to the 6/4 [p 226], states that o6/3 and 6/4/3 are  
interchangable [234-5].)

Best regards,
Donna Doyle

Aaron Copland School of Music
Queens College, CUNY
Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY 11367

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 29, 2011, at 11:38 AM, Matt Bribitzer-Stull <mpbs at umn.edu> wrote:

> Dear Colleagues:
> I find when instructing undergraduates in core harmony courses that  
> students accept the guidelines we provide for part-writing much  
> better if they understand the reasoning behind them. I'm at a loss,  
> however, to explain why common-practice composers rarely used a 6/4  
> chord above scale degree 2 as a bass neighbor motion expanding  
> tonic. V4/3 is most often a passing bass gesture (in which, of  
> course, there's a good reason why students need not resolve the  
> chordal seventh in the soprano - namely, it's not a dissonance with  
> the bass and often completes a pleasing parallel-tenths idiom) or  
> part of a collection of dominant-functioned chords, though it can  
> and does function as a bass neighbor expanding tonic; and vii 6 an  
> vii 6/5 harmonize bass neighbor notes with much more frequency than  
> a 6/4 chord.
> I'd be interested if there are any compelling contrapuntal or  
> harmonic reasons why composers tended not to harmonize neighbor  
> motions in the bass with unaccented 6/4 chords.
> Best,
> Matt
> -- 
> ________________________________
> Matthew Bribitzer-Stull
> Associate Professor of Music Theory
> University of Minnesota School of Music
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