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

Eytan Agmon agmonz at 012.net.il
Sun Oct 2 22:32:45 PDT 2011

Dear Colleagues,


Matt makes an interesting point, which to my knowledge has so far escaped

For what it is worth, there seems to be something inherently unsatisfying,
contrapuntally as it were, with a neighboring 10-8-10 or 6-8-6 progression,
in the sense that the perfect consonance is supposed to sound less stable
than the imperfect consonance on either side. Of course, the same is true of
a passing 10-8-6 or 6-8-10 progression. However, in the neighboring case the
reversal of melodic direction emphasizes rather than de-emphasizes the
octave, thus accentuating the problem.


Eytan Agmon

Bar-Ilan University 


From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org
[mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of Matt
Sent: Thursday, September 29, 2011 6:38 PM
To: Society for Music Theory
Subject: [Smt-talk] "Neighboring" 6/4 Chords


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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