[Smt-talk] Fwd: Abbreviated Labels of Seventh Chords

Donna Doyle donnadoyle at att.net
Mon Feb 13 05:58:17 PST 2012

> Re (In alphabetical order):
> The aug 6 (Dec discussion)
> A more apt designation for "swiss" might be the situation where the  
> melody traverses all three character tones
> of the "chords", e. g., K 333, I, m 80 (Bb-A-G over Eb and C#),  
> Haydn H XVI: 27, I, (same ptiches) and many
> other exx.
> Boulanger's figured bass
> This system of doing "free tonal counterpoint" (as N Meeus has aptly  
> described it) is distinctly different from realizing
> basso continuo (even though it was part of Accompaniment). It's more  
> of a composition method teaching one how to
> weave the warp and woof of sound, ultimately in any style, and is  
> best suited for students already grounded in harmony.
> The cadential 6/4
> When the bass ascends the scale from T through S to D, it makes  
> little sense to me that, upon reaching the ^5,
> the other voices would sound T above it. This reminds me of Terry  
> Southern's '60s satirical novelette, "Candy":
> An American young woman travels to Tibet seeking a guru. Upon  
> reaching the top of his mountain and meeting
> him face to face, she exclaims, "Daddy!"
> For Ildar
> We know that CPE lacked his father's genius. And I understand that a  
> faulty Rameau translation was partly
> the cause of his dislike of what he thought were Rameau's ideas. As  
> for his quirky fantasias, do we throw out
> Fetis' contributions to the study of harmony because of some of his  
> compositions' syntax?
> Best,
> Donna Doyle
> Queens College CUNY
> On Feb 12, 2012, at 8:33 PM, Ildar Khannanov wrote:
>> Dear List,
>> I am puzzled by this vehement defense of Schenker, "figured bass"  
>> and “counterpoint” against the theory of harmonic functions. Is  
>> there something important at stake?
>> The arguments like “point-by-point’ chord definitions" are quite  
>> old. They remind me another one, “the gloves do not fit.” Yes, the  
>> theory of tonal-harmonic functions implies that chords in a  
>> harmonic progression must have functions and they have to be heard.  
>> I just do not understand why it is necessary to disregard them, or  
>> even throw them away in order to understand musical meaning of the  
>> progression. Do you normally throw away the words from the sentence  
>> in order to understand it? So, if I say: “I do not like potato  
>> salad” you need to reduce it to “I like the potato salad,” or “I  
>> like the potato,”  or, even,  “I am the potato?” How do you know,  
>> which notes to eliminate, beside the claim that there is a  
>> mysterious Urlinie—a claim, which is impossible to substantiate?
>> Concerning the theory of harmonic functions and the French  
>> tradition, I find it fascinating how Schenkerians, obsessed with  
>> revenge to European tradition of the 19th century, just as their  
>> teacher, tend to read texts selectively, omitting the paragraphs  
>> containing the undesirable information. However, if they took time  
>> and read slowly, say, Fétis’ famous treatise on harmony, they would  
>> find the following:
>> “Je demandai quels accords existent par eux-mêmes, comme de  
>> conséquences de tonalité actuelle, indépendamment de toute  
>> circonstance de modification, et je n’en trouvait que deux: le  
>> premier consonant, compose de trois sons, et appelé accord parfait;  
>> le deuxième dissonant, composé de quatre sons placés à des  
>> intervalles de tierces l’un de l’autre, et appelé accord de  
>> septième de dominante. Je vis que le premier constitue le repos  
>> dans l’harmonie, parce que lors-qu’il se fait entendre, rien  
>> n’indique la nécessité de succession; l’autre, au contraire, est  
>> attractif, par la mise en relation de certains sons de la gamme;  
>> par cela même il a des tendances de résolution, et il caractérise  
>> le movement dans l’harmonie.
>> [] l’isolement absolu me permettait de me livrer sans distraction à  
>> mes rêveries sur la théorie de l’harmonie. Après avoir fixé le  
>> caractère et les fonctions des deux accords consonant et dissonant,  
>> je cherchai avec soin si quelque autre aggrégation harmonique était  
>> nécessaire pour constituer la tonalite; mais je n’en pus découvrir,  
>> et j’acquis la conviction que tous les autres accords sont des  
>> modifications de ceux-là, et que leur destination est de jeter de  
>> la variété dans les forms de l’harmonie, ou d’établir des relations  
>> de gammes différentes.”
>> François-Joseph Fétis, Traité complet de la théorie et de la  
>> pratique de l’harmonie, http://books.google.com/books, 1853, page  
>> viij.
>> The terms in italics are carefully copied by Fetis from Rameau’s  
>> Traité de l’harmonie. In fact, these two paragraph provide a better  
>> definition of the concept of harmonic function than the texts of  
>> Rameau. They are tied to the interpretation of tonality. Thus, this  
>> is the theory of tonal-harmonic functions, advocated by one of the  
>> most brilliant French theorists of the 19th century who also taught  
>> at the Conservatoire. Riemann considered him one of his most  
>> important influences.
>> Theoretical position of Fétis does not support Schenkerian  
>> revisionism at all. It supports Rameau and Riemann. I can provide  
>> the documented evidence that Simon Sechter (who alledgedly created  
>> or supported a teaching of scale steps, alternative to Rameau- 
>> Riemann’s functions) fully supported functional theory. There are  
>> many statements in Kirnberger which show profound understanding of  
>> Rameau’s contribution.
>> I do not know what Nadya was teaching. The CPE’s libel of Rameau  
>> present little interest. In fact, his Versuch is not a book on  
>> counterpoint and voice leading. Again, this is a common  
>> misconception (just as Zarlino did not write a book On  
>> Counterpoint; it was  a subtitle of a 4-volume treatise on harmony,  
>> called Institutione harmonische). CPE’s book is about musical  
>> emotions and the task of a performer. As such—a rare topic,  
>> preceded, perhaps, only by Tinctoris’s Compendium. As for CPE’s  
>> recommendations concerning voice leading, I would not recommend any  
>> sane composer to follow them. His contemporaries had the reason to  
>> doubt his sanity precisely because his harmonic progressions in  
>> Fantasias and Rondos did not carry syntactic unity.
>> J.S. Bach was the first composer to fully realize tonal-harmonic  
>> function and functional syntax in music. I can write another email  
>> about that.
>> K6/4 is a smaller fish, comparing to these issues.
>> Best,
>> Ildar Khannanov
>> Peabody Conservatory
>> Solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
>> From: Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr>
>> To: smt-talk <smt-talk at societymusictheory.org>
>> Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2012 1:44 PM
>> Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Abbreviated Labels of Seventh Chords
>> It occurred to me also that some of Catel's notation can be found  
>> in CPE Bach – with important differences, though. CPE's 4+ is a 4  
>> with an extended horizontal line and a stripe crossing it. Catel  
>> writes +4, or even such combinations as +/2 (meaning +4/2) or +/4/3  
>> (obviously for +6/4/3). Both CPE and Catel use 2 alone to refer to  
>> the third inversion of a seventh which is not a dominant. For the  
>> diminished 5th, CPE writes 5b; barred figures for him usually  
>> indicate raised intervals and his 4+ may be a mere barred (i.e.  
>> raised) 4. (On the other hand my cursory glance through the Versuch  
>> did not allow me to find a barred 5). For Catel, on the other hand,  
>> a barred figure is a diminished interval.
>>     I believe that Catel's intention was to specifically indicate  
>> one or the other note of the augmented 4th/diminished 5th  
>> characteristic of the dominant, by either a + or a barred 5. This  
>> was never stated, that I know, neither by him nor by his followers;  
>> but the Paris Conservatoire makes such a point to distinguish the  
>> "natural" (dominant) seventh from any other ("septièmes d'espèce")  
>> that the intention, conscious or not, seems unescapable.
>> Writing harmony in open score and C clefs (more precisely, chiavi  
>> naturali) was standard practice in the Conservatoire. We still did  
>> that in the Brussels Conservatoire during my studies (hum! some  
>> time ago...), working the basses and sopranos given at late-19th- 
>> century final exams in the Paris Conservatoire. For us, at least,  
>> voice-leading considerations were indeed paramount, but boiled down  
>> to avoiding parallel or "hidden" fifths and octaves. There was no  
>> question of melodic fluency (on the contrary: the exercises often  
>> requested tricky voice movements). We did try imitations (which the  
>> exercises often made possible). I always had the feeling that our  
>> classes were not in harmony, but in some kind of free tonal  
>> counterpoint, a counterpoint that reduced to avoiding parallels  
>> (one never spoke of good or bad successions of chords, my teacher  
>> and most of my colleagues students new nothing of harmonic  
>> functions, nor even of Roman numerals).
>> Nadia Boulanger's teaching of harmony does not seem very different  
>> from that. I presume that she was able to turn to musical advantage  
>> what in our case sounded musical nonsense. What we did had no style  
>> at all, and was not meant to; but it did more than earning us the  
>> right to be free, it also shew us how to be free and really gave us  
>> a facility of writing. A lot is done today in the Conservatoire to  
>> learn writing "in the style of", to write pastiches "à la Fauré",  
>> "à la Debussy", "à la Messiaen", etc. This may give the students  
>> the (false) impression of writing "real" music, but certainly does  
>> not help understanding what the Masters did (one does not write "à  
>> la Beethoven", that I know: it would be too difficult).
>> Nicolas Meeùs
>> Université Paris-Sorbonne
>> Le 11/02/2012 16:32, Donna Doyle a écrit :
>>> As a former Boulanger student, overloaded these days with  
>>> teaching, I nevertheless make stabs at completing my dissertation
>>> on Boulanger's methods and their tradition. All the materials I  
>>> have that are associated with her (incl basses and figures I  
>>> copied from her sheets and my realizations approved by her), show  
>>> the Conservatoire's figured bass tradition, e. g., 4+, without the  
>>> 2,
>>> for V4/2. I believe this notation comes not only from Catel, as  
>>> you point out, Nicholas, but from CPE.  As Phil Duker offered,
>>> CPE lists several figures for this disposition (p 252). Indeed, on  
>>> p 260 CPE reminds readers that 4+ is an abbreviated 6/4/2.
>>> NB also used 7 over + for V7, 6 over barred 5 for 6/5 and only +6  
>>> for 4/3. The leading-tone chord was considered a
>>> "dominant FO" (fundamental omitted). She used few romans. Voice- 
>>> leading was paramount. She insisted on
>>> realizations written in open score, C clefs, and played for her.  
>>> (And the performance had better be musical or she
>>> would jump in her chair. ["But, my dear!  Zhe poor tenor!"]) She  
>>> delighted in various realizations, especially those
>>> employing imitation and little canons between the voices-- 
>>> techniques of her oral tradition. And, of course,
>>> this was done in conjunction with intense ear training, enabling  
>>> us to see what we hear and hear what we see.
>>> For Boulanger, as with CPE, bass realization was an aspect of  
>>> Accompaniment. It seems to me that our insistence on elegantly
>>> logical numbering systems is defying the rich, sometimes messy  
>>> nature of this once vibrant practice. Apart from Schenkerian  
>>> analysis, figured bass is a chord-labeling shadow of its former  
>>> self.  Let's restore its life! (Perhaps not for undergraduates,
>>> but in graduate curricula, for composers, theorists, organists,  
>>> maybe also pianists and conductors.) As NB said, "It's not
>>> that you're going to write in this style. But after working with  
>>> it, you'll have earned the right to be free." Isn't this what  
>>> composers/theorists/performers used to do? I find it remarkable  
>>> that NB, despite being called "French provincial,"
>>> continued to transmit this tradition into the 1970s.
>>> Best,
>>> Donna Doyle
>>> Queens College CUNY
>>> On Feb 9, 2012, at 3:40 AM, Nicolas Meeùs wrote:
>>>> The French tradition, that of the Paris Conservatoire, is to  
>>>> write +4 in this case, the + meaning that the 4 is the leading  
>>>> tone (similarly, one would write +6 in second inversion). This  
>>>> tradition, which is not mine and against which I am trying to  
>>>> fight in Paris, has several drawbacks, one of them being that the  
>>>> French use labels that hardly anyone else understands.
>>>>     I wondered about the origin of this figuring, without  
>>>> performing a thorough research. It certainly goes back to Catel's  
>>>> treatise, and perhaps earlier. The + sign is in origin merely a  
>>>> stylized #. Catel makes use of it (and of the barred 5) with the  
>>>> specific (although unstated) intention of specially labeling  
>>>> dominant seventh chords, the ones that he considers "natural",  
>>>> all positions of which always have either a + or a barred 5 (from  
>>>> fundamental position to third inversion: +3; 6/5barred; +6, +4;  
>>>> this is tricky, because 4/3 becomes +6, 2 or 4/2 becomes +4).  
>>>> Applied dominants are labeled in the same way, with the other  
>>>> perverse effect that French students see modulations everywhere  
>>>> (as the French did since François Campion in 1716: tout diese  
>>>> extraordinaire fait sortir du ton, "any accidental sharp leads  
>>>> outside the tonality").
>>>>     Labeling third-inversion dominants as V4/2 may result from an  
>>>> attempt to reconcile the two systems. In this respect, I'd be  
>>>> pleased to know how Nadia Boulanger labeled chords, if anyone on  
>>>> this list knows (it has been discussed here some time ago that  
>>>> her teaching of harmony followed the tradition of the  
>>>> Conservatoire, but her ciphering was not specifically discussed,  
>>>> that I remember).
>>>> My own view about the labeling of seventh chords is that it  
>>>> should indicate the dissonant interval: (8)/7, 6/5, 4/3, 2/(0),  
>>>> the 8 and 0 being omitted as redundant with the written bass, of  
>>>> course; this is what Dimitar describes, with a slightly different  
>>>> explanation. The main difference with the French system is that  
>>>> it does not specifically indicate dominant sevenths, which may be  
>>>> viewed (by the French) as a shortcoming, or (by the others) as an  
>>>> advantage.
>>>> Nicolas Meeùs
>>>> Université Paris-Sorbonne
>>>> Le 9/02/2012 04:50, Ninov, Dimitar N a écrit :
>>>>> Dear Colleagues,
>>>>> My students were asking me why I wrote V2 instead of V4/2. I  
>>>>> guess I had to ask them why they wrote V4/2 instead of V2. This  
>>>>> is not a big deal, of course, but I wanted to bring to your  
>>>>> attention the fact that number 4 is irrelevant to the logic of  
>>>>> derivation of the abbreviated labels of seventh chords.
>>>>> The abbreviated labels are derived by two intervals: 1) the  
>>>>> interval between the bass and the root on the one hand, and 2)  
>>>>> the interval between the bass and the seventh on the other. Thus  
>>>>> in root position the only number is 7, because the interval  
>>>>> between the bass and the root is unison; in first inversion we  
>>>>> have 6-5; in second inversion 4-3, and in third inversion the  
>>>>> only number is 2, because the interval between the bass and the  
>>>>> seventh is unison.
>>>>> Why 4? It shows the interval between the bass and the third of  
>>>>> the seventh chord, which does not have to be shown unless we  
>>>>> work in minor and use only figured bass with no Roman numerals.
>>>>> When I flip through the pages of some European and older  
>>>>> American books of harmony (as well as some relatively new) the  
>>>>> above explanation is provided. Author such as Piston, Tischler,  
>>>>> Schoenberg, Horvitt, Cook, and all Russian theorists use 2  
>>>>> instead of 4/2, but the massive tendency in the US is to write  
>>>>> 4-2. Is this tradition based on ignoring the logic of  
>>>>> derivation, or is there something special that stands behind  
>>>>> this label?
>>>>> I would appreciate any ideas in this regard.
>>>>> Best wishes,
>>>>> Dimitar
>>>>> Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
>>>>> School of Music
>>>>> Texas State University
>>>>> 601 University Drive
>>>>> San Marcos, Texas 78666
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> Smt-talk mailing list
>>>>> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
>>>>> http://lists.societymusictheory.org/listinfo.cgi/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org
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