[Smt-talk] Fwd: Re: Subdominant versus Predominant

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Sun Feb 26 13:10:25 PST 2012


Let's keep Schenker outside this discussion. You have the false notion 
that Schenker did not consider the subdominant, or considered it 
unimportant. This is not true, but it does not matter here.

I did not discuss whether the subdominant is a "reflection of the 
dominante", merely whether Reber said so: the answer definitely is "no".

You wrote to Jean-Michel Boulay that "neither Nicholas nor you 
understand that the main point of our discussion is not whether the 
French think that S is a chord below D or the Germans think it is a 
chord below T". I do believe, though, that this is essential to the 
discussion, because it shows that generations of French (and, probably, 
Italian and Spanish) speaking people did not understand S as you do. 
They may have been mistaken, but at least their mistake (if any) 
demonstrates that your "axiom" remains open to discussion.

Your point of view seems to stem from an edulcorated conception of 
Riemann's theory of tonal functions. One important question (asked by 
Dahlhaus, among others) about Riemannian functions is whether the S 
function is associated with the IVth degree, II and VI being possible 
substitutes, or is an overarching function for IV, II and VI all 
together. The latter is the most probable. In view of this, to assume 
that T--S--D--T and I--IV--V/--/I are equivalent formulations is rather 

Roman numerals belong to a drastically different tradition, Sechter's, 
continued in Viennese theory (Bruckner, Schoenberg, Schenker), where the 
functional value of the chords is seen to depend from their distance to 
the tonic in the cycle of fifths, IV--I--V--II--VI--III--VII. In this 
conception, IV and V remain equally close to I as in the German 
(Riemannian) theory; but II refers to the tonic merely through the 
mediation of V, VI through II and V, and so on.

The American tradition is close to the Viennese one, and therefore can 
see II as a "predominant" chord (and IV as a possible substitute to it), 
referring to I through V; while you are more familiar with a simplified 
post-sovietic Riemannian tradition, which sees II as a substitute to IV, 
the "subdominant". The 19th-century French theorists represent a third 
tradition, which did not much bother about tonal functions, in neither 
of these versions.

I myself belong to none of these traditions (I am not French!), but I 
met and studied all of them with some puzzlement and much interest. 
Don't think that I don't understand what you say: I probably knew your 
theory before you were born (;-)). But don't expect me to accept it as 
*the* truth: I have seen too many truths in my life.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 26/02/2012 17:00, Ninov, Dimitar N a écrit :
> Dear Nicholas,
> Thank you for this quotations. They only reflect what I have been saying up to now, namely: "By associating the fourth degree to the two preceding ones (the first and the fifth), the tonal effect is complete." Also, "...they [T, S,, and D] form the "bonnes notes" of the key". That is not Schenkerian, is it? Schenker does not need the 4th scale degree to complete the tonal effect and he does not think that T, S and D form the "bonnes notes" of the key - he builds a house on two columns instead of three.
> Another quotation from your letter: "And it is by no means true that Reber explains it as "a reflection of the dominante". No disagreement here either - the S chord is a reflection of D as referred to the tonal center; it lies a perfect fifth in the opposite direction from the tonic - a mirror inversion of the position of D with T as an axis. Remember: T as an axis.
> I do not have to prove that all the chords in a key relate to the tonic. This is an axiom, not a theorem. Otherwise, the tonic would not posses the power of gravity, and there will be no key. PD is an invented sub-category which implies a "dominant paradigm" which does not exist at a pure diatonic level. The only paradigm in a key is the tonic. Only when the dominant is tonicized does it create a temporary paradigm, as it happens with any tonicized major and minor triads. But many theorists claim that, even if the dominant is tonicized, they steel hear it as D, not as a local T. There is some truth in this.
> Best regards,
> Dimitar
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