[Smt-talk] Nature and Labeling of the Cadential Six-Four

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Sun Feb 12 16:36:49 PST 2012

Dear Ciro,

Thank you for your message. In the case that we discuss the suspension sounds foreign to the entire vertical sonority (not just to a single element in it) because the cadential six-four has the same structure as the tonic. I think that you are trying to turn things around  in 180 degrees. As I wrote to Nicholas, you cannot embellish V with its own tones (as you imply in your last sentence), but you can certainly embellish the cadential six-four with a dominant tone. At that very moment we perceive this dominant tone as a foreign tone to the entire structure of the cadential six-four, and the cadential six-four reveals its latent tonic potential.

In other words, we may claim that, at one level, all the harmonies which occur over a pedal point represent an embellishment of that pedal, but at another level (it may be deeper) we hear harmonic functions over the bass, which may be embellished by non-chord tones. If we did not, we would not be able to analyze what happens over the pedal. Sometimes, entire periods occur over a tonic pedal point, for instance. In such cases the pedal is the surface, and what happens over it is deeper. The pedal does not prevent us from hearing the implied harmonies on top and even the implied cadences. Example? Robert Schumann, Op. 68, No. 18 "Schnitterliedchen". A parallel period over a double tonic organ point.

Best wishes,


Hi Dimitar,

Well, actually my point was that I wouldn't simply label the chord at the moment of occurrence with V6-4 alone. I would label it V6-5/4-3. Implied in your comment is the notion that you would label it V6-4 because we are just listening to the isolated perceptual slice that occurs on the strong beat. I could be wrong, but that is how I read your comment. However, at least for me, perceptions that result in functional labels are not isolated from prior events and the events expected to follow. For example, a stepwise bass leading up to the dominant note creates the expectation that the V chord will occur on the dominant note, which will in turn enhance my perception of the V6-5/4-3 function. Lewin wrote about this type of functional perception in his Phenomenology article in Music Perception. In this context, I would not have a problem with nested embellishments. Suspensions can be embellished with neighbor notes or even other suspensions, such as 7-6-5 over dominant bass in the present case, which would not sound like a suspension into a tonic chord, but a further embellishment of the V or V7 chord, especially if a root position tonic followed the V.

All the best, 


More information about the Smt-talk mailing list