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

Richard Hermann harhar at unm.edu
Mon Feb 13 07:24:39 PST 2012

Dear Devin,

Nice post! I think we forget sometimes that composers may be deliberately playing with listener's "grammatical" expectations much as a poet plays with language as a way to question categories and labels and get us to focus better (and debate?) what is happening in the work or at least our apprehension of it. Of course Beethoven and Schumann along with other German composers of that century preferred the term Ton Dichter (or is it Tondichter?) rather than composer.

Good Schenkerians would understand that these things you bring up are real and can not be graphed. They would become a central focus of a study: think of Carl Schachter in this regard. Note he rarely publishes complete graphs with all levels present.

As the English translator of Free Composition, Ernst Oster said to us when he handed back our homework: All right, you have shown you can graph, but would you now please understand the music. (paraphrased but close) New England Conservatory, Boston, Fall 1976. This is, after all, one of our most important goals. For some the tools are the end; for others the tools are a means to an end. I am happy that both positions exist and that there are many tools for us to use. Let us use them wisely!


Richard Hermann
University of New Mexico

On Feb 13, 2012, at 7:39 AM, Devin Chaloux wrote:

> Good morning list!
> This is quite the discussion on labeling 6/4 chords, something my Master's colleagues and I have been discussing fervently in our pedagogy class as we work through all of the different textbooks. It is fantastic to see that our differing views are supported by a large swath of the music theory community as well. Certainly this is a controversial subject--possibly with no right or wrong answer given the situation.
> I'd like to respond to Ciro Scotto and Dmitri Tymoczko's mini discussion about labeling a 6/4 on scale-degree 5 that resolves deceptively. The Beethoven example is a good one for this particular example. I think much of it depends on how you consider the progression works. In that piece, a ii6 leads into that 6/4. Today, I imagine most pedagogues, like myself, probably find this spot tricky to analyze for our freshmen/sophomores. If we go the I6/4 route, then we have the conundrum of a ii going to a I chord. Then again, this depends on whether pedagogues have strictly forbidden this (despite the many examples of ii(7) resolving to I in the literature). If you label it a V6/4, it does not resolve where it should go, V. However, I am part of the V6/4 camp as the 6/4 resolves down to 5/3 in the correct register. Essentially, we have a chromatic passing tone in the bass as part of a deceptive resolution to vi. Nevertheless, it may be possible to experience it both ways.
> Since there is an easy explanation for the Beethoven "God Save the King" example, I bring forth an example that may be a bit more problematic. Enter R. Schumann, Op. 68, No. 30 (Album fuer die Jugend). The chord in question lies in the third full measure on the downbeat. Clearly, this is some sort of 6/4 chord, but how to label it? Or--maybe more importantly to Schenkerians--how to graph it? My experience with the piece is absolutely hearing this 6/4 chord with dominant function. The preparation of this downbeat with the V6/5/V really adds to a dominant hearing. It becomes problematic in the resolution however. Like the Beethoven example, the bass moves chromatically towards a deceptive cadence. However, unlike the Beethoven example, the 6/4 stays static. This creates an interesting instance of an augmented chord, to the delight of Richard Cohn and his Weitzmann regions, and (maybe) much to the dismay of Schenkerians. The progression finally ends with a weak V6/5-I cadence. What is more problematic is that the suspended 6/4 does not resolve in the correct voices due to the inversion of the V6/5 chord.
> I undeniably hear this instance of a 6/4 as having dominant function when we enter the third bar; yet, by the time we leave the third bar, I have sufficiently questioned myself to consider it as a tonic arpeggiation. In a sense, over time, you reevaluate how that particular chord functions. This becomes an interesting problem graphically for Schenkerians. I think it is tempting to hear the bass arpeggiation from A-C-F to establish the tonic after the auxiliary cadence; yet, can the 6/4 have enough structural weight to allow for the 6/4 to be beamed?
> With such an example, clearly there will never be one answer for this 6/4 problem. While most of us on this list are discussion exceptional examples, clearly there are enough to raise a significant issue out of it. However, one my age can only hope that these types of discussions are the ones that keep music theory jobs available when I'm ready to apply for them!
> Devin Chaloux
> University of Cincinnati - College-Conservatory of Music
> M.M. in Music Theory '12
> University of Connecticut
> B.M. in Music Theory '10
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