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

gzar at mail2.gis.net gzar at mail2.gis.net
Sun Oct 2 10:25:19 PDT 2011

Dear Matt,

For what it's worth -- especially without my having time right now to 
look up any of the proper citations -- my understanding of the 
interesting situation you describe is the following.

First, when a N or P chord based on ^2 prolongs Tonic function, I 
believe you made just the right point, about the P- or N-motion best 
including parallel or contrary 10ths. Thus the N or P chord would be 
a 6/3 or 6/4/3, not a 6/4. The contrast in sonority between chords 
with consonances above the bass and a chord with a dissonance (the 
4th of the 6/4) might seem too great to sustain a persuasive 
Tonic-function P/N-motion.

However, when a passing motion prolongs "Subdominant" function, such 
as through bass degrees ^4-5-6, a P-6/4 chord on ^5 seems quite 
appropriate, both to preserve hearing only "diatonic" tones and to 
anticipate a "Dominant" function 6/4-5/3 prolongation to follow.

That is, in the first case, the P or N chord prolongs Tonic, 
presumably animating its movement onward to "S" or "D" functions. 
Here, a more "smooth" P/N voice-leading chord is effective, helping 
to "stabilize" the T-function. However, prolonging "S", particularly 
to aim it toward "D" function, allows for -- even benefits from -- a 
P sonority suggesting the "D" to come, thus destabilizing the "S" to 
some extent.

Here is a typed example (one voicing of several) of the two 
situations (degrees for each chord are listed in B/T/A/S order):

1. ^1/5/3/1-2/5/4/7-3/5/5/1(--^4/6/4/2--)

2. ^4/4/1/6-5/3/1/5-6/4/1/4 [or 6/2/1/4#]--^5/3/1/5-5/2/7/4--^1/1/1/3.



Gerald Zaritzky
Faculty, Department of Music Theory
New England Conservatory of Music
290 Huntington Avenue (Room JH 325)
Boston, Massachusetts 02115  USA
gerald.zaritzky at necmusic.edu
office: 617-585-1373 (voicemail only)

At 10:38 AM -0500 9/29/11, Matt Bribitzer-Stull 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.
>Matthew Bribitzer-Stull
>Associate Professor of Music Theory
>University of Minnesota School of Music
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