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

Donna Doyle donnadoyle at att.net
Mon Feb 13 06:06:25 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 considered by her an aspect of  
> Accompaniment). It's 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
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