[Smt-talk] Cadence compendium - Half cadence

David Lodewyckx David.Lodewyckx at arts.kuleuven.be
Mon Dec 3 13:17:55 PST 2012

Dear Frank,
dear colleagues,

Being involved in Pieter's project since 2011, I have been studying a lot of contemporary sources with a specific focus on cadence typologies and cadence definitions. Unfortunately - if I'm right that you're looking for English/American terminology in particular - English sources weren't at the centre of my research yet. But they will be in the next few years...

The earliest reference I can come up with, is Kollmann's 1796 "Essay on Musical Harmony", pp. 56-60.
He considers the half cadence as one of the two species of the imperfect cadence, the other one being "the real imperfect cadence" (what we would call a 'plagal cadence' IV-I nowadays).  
His definition of the half cadence reads as follows: 
"The half cadence, or retrograde perfect cadence. It proceeds from the key note, both in major and minor, to its dominante; with the major or minor triad on the former, and the major triad only, or the chord of the seventh, on the latter."

You might be interested in Keller's description (Rules for a Thorow-Bass, 1705) as well. Although he clearly doesn't write from a harmonic point of view, his conception of the 'half close' resembles our (broad) understanding of the (harmonic) function of a half cadence. 
Keller, p. 162: "There is another Cadence call'd the 7th and 6th Cadence, which is counted but a half Close, and if the 6th is flat, is never used for a final Close, because it does not satisfy the Ear, like as when the Bass falls a 5th, or rises a 4th, 'tis often introduced in a piece of Musick, as the Air may require; and when it ends any one part of a Piece, 'tis in order to begin a new Movement or Subject: The 7th and Sharp 6th may be used for a final Close, if the Design of the Composer requires it, but 'tis very rarely done."

I'm really curious to see your and others' first source of the use of the term half cadence.

Best regards,


David Lodewyckx
Ph.D. student
University of Leuven, Belgium

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   1. Re: Cadence on the wikipedia (Samarotto, Frank)


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2012 19:49:15 +0000
From: "Samarotto, Frank" <fsamarot at indiana.edu>
To: Pieter Berg? <Pieter.Berge at arts.kuleuven.be>,       "Ninov, Dimitar N"
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Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Cadence on the wikipedia
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Dear Pieter,

What a terrific project! I look forward to the results.

In the meantime, I will take this opportunity to ask a question I have been meaning to for a while. Can the collective wisdom of the list cite the first of the use of the term half cadence, or comparable term, particularly as a harmonic concept?

(And thanks to all the responses to my last inquiry?they were helpful.)


Frank Samarotto
Associate Professor of Music Theory
Jacobs School of Music
Indiana University Bloomington

On 12/3/12 2:52 AM, "Pieter Berg?" <Pieter.Berge at arts.kuleuven.be<mailto:Pieter.Berge at arts.kuleuven.be>> wrote:

Dear Dimitar,
dear colleagues,

Personally, I was less surprised by the fact that the cadence-page in Wikipedia is a "mish-mash" indeed then by the idea that someone would expect this page to be a reliable source of information. In music theory, I cannot think of a concept that has created more "imbroglio's" then the whole history of opera buffa itself. For sure, it is a worthwhile enterprise to investigate if "cadences" could be integrated in one coherent system or typology, but given the fact that different cadence concepts - not to mention different cadence names - often emerge in completely different theoretical paradigms (both synchronically and diachronically) makes such an attempt practically impossible. Therefore, the first thing to do seems to map the different types and names of cadences in the history of music theory, to investigate how they were interpreted by different theorists, to reconstruct how they 'traveled' through Europe and beyond, how they were translated in ways that caused confusion
 , etcetera etcetera.
At the University of Leuven, we currently try to assemble all cadence names/types that were used in the eighteenth century or that were introduced later with reference to that period (We hope to broaden our scope in a later phase). At this moment we have assembled over 400 cadence names (including terminology in English, French, German, Italian, and Latin). For each of the terms we try to present (1) a definition [but in the majority of cases it is a list of definitions!], (2) an overview of sources in which the specific term is used (in order to clarify the 'history' of each cadence name), (3) an anthology of the relevant excerpts from this sources themselves, (4) a list of examples from the repertoire.  By the end of 2013 we would like hope to publish our work on www.thecadencecompendium.com . From that moment onwards, our compendium will be open for additions, corrections and discussions by the collective wisdom. Also, around the same period, we plan to edit a concise pape
 r version of the compendium, only including basic information on the different kinds of cadences, and mainly conceived as a manual for students and scholars.
By compiling the cadence compendium, we obviously are not trying to neutralize the cadential labyrinth as it is, but only to fill it with signposts. To give you a more specific idea of our ambitions, I hereby include just one (very) provisional example.

Pieter Berg?
University of Leuven, Belgium

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