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

Devin Chaloux devin.chaloux at gmail.com
Mon Feb 13 07:54:40 PST 2012

Hi Dmitri,

I appreciate the quick response. Of course, root functionality is a sticky
subject when first introducing harmonic progressions to anyone new to the
subject. Certainly your approach is a valid one and will work for students.
Through my own experience of discovery as a freshman and subsequently as a
pedagogue, I found that if you stay away from stating that any harmonic
progression happens 100% of the time, you will end up achieving the same
results. Then, when you reach an exception, you can explain theoretically
why this exception exists--and as long as you are prepared in your
explanation, all questions will be subsided.

There are hundreds of exceptions to root functionality "rules" (if you want
to call them that.) You displayed a good example of one at your talk at SMT
this year where clearly there is a paradigm that V6 goes to IV6. Certainly,
it's not common, but it happens. In your case, V6 leads to IV6 as a
descending bass harmonization.

However, I think you misunderstood my original point. First off, I was
raising the question beyond the classroom level as this--as demonstrated by
the recent flurry of emails on the SMT-talk list--is clearly an issue among
us theorists as well. Certainly, anyone who sees every 6/4 chord built on
scale-degree 5 as a I6/4 may curiously wonder why this debate has gone on
for as long as it has. The conundrum comes when there are those of us who
attach function to Roman numerals and thus, label such a chord as V6/4. It
is important to note that the recent additions to the theory textbook
repertoire (Marvin/Clendenning, Roig-Francoli, and Laitz) all use this
nomenclature. Thus, for the many of us who have adapted this style of
labeling the cadential 6/4, this is a valid issue.

As I mentioned, the Beethoven example easily avoids this whole issue if you
analyze the G# as a chromatic passing tone towards a deceptive resolution.
If a G were to remain, there would be nothing controversial about that
cadential 6/4. Then I raised another example, the Schumann Op. 68/30, as a
better example of something problematic. Regardless if you call it a I6/4
or a V6/4, there are certain issues that would need to be discussed in a
class. For instance, in the case of I6/4, why does a V6/5/V proceed it? On
the other hand, in the case of a V6/4, why doesn't it resolve properly to
V--or even, why don't the voices resolve properly?

Regardless of the nomenclature, this will present a problem for any
pedagogue in an entry level theory course as the progression leads to an
F#-augmented triad. Clearly, this is something we don't want our
freshmen/sophomores to write in a normal 4-part chorale texture.

Even beyond the classroom, this is a particular issue for Schenkerians,
especially when trying to find Stufen in the beginning four measures of
this work. For space reasons, I will not repeat my previous discussion.

Devin Chaloux*
University of Cincinnati - College-Conservatory of Music
M.M. in Music Theory '12
University of Connecticut
B.M. in Music Theory '10

On Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 10:09 AM, Dmitri Tymoczko <dmitri at princeton.edu>wrote:

> > 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.
> Sorry for being thick, but what is the conundrum?  Is it just that there
> exist common progressions that only occur in specific inversions, such as
> ii6->I6/4?
> If so, there are a number of these progressions, and there's simply no way
> to avoid them as a pedagogue.  The most common, besides ii->I6/4, are
> V->IV6 and vi->I6.  In each case you have a reasonably common progression
> that only occurs in one specific inversion -- V almost never goes to root
> position IV, but often goes to first-inversion IV, just as vi almost never
> goes to root-position I, but often goes to I6.
> The deeper issue is that root-functionality is just an approximation --
> rules like "V doesn't go to IV" work well enough for the most part, but
> there are a variety of cases where you need to specify the exact inversions
> in order to get the harmonic grammar right.  I personally teach the
> students this from day one, so that they don't get puzzled.  My students
> learn right off the bat that I6/4 is syntactically anomalous, and that it
> doesn't behave like a standard root-position tonic chord.  As a result, the
> label "I6/4" does not confuse them, as they have been taught that this is a
> very special chord.
> From a pedagogical point of view, I would say that it is important to
> *avoid* the sends that there's any conundrum here.  The best strategy, I've
> found, is just to announce that root-functionality is an approximation, and
> that there are a few important exceptions.  This works much better then
> pretending that root-functionality works 100% of the time, only to turn
> around and contradict yourself later.  (Or to fiddle with the notation to
> try to avoid "anomalous" progressions like ii6->I6/4 or vi->I6.)
> DT
> Associate Professor of Music
> 310 Woolworth Center
> Princeton, NJ 08544-1007
> (609) 258-4255 (ph), (609) 258-6793 (fax)
> http://dmitri.tymoczko.com
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