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

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Mon Feb 13 10:22:03 PST 2012

Hello again, Devin,

It is good that you brought the point that, those of you who label the cadential six-four as V6/4-5/3 have problems in analyzing unusual appearances of this sonority. 

"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?"

Why do we have to have any issue with I6/4 going to V6/5; in fact this one example was given to us when I was an undergraduate student at the conservatory in Sofia. Not only this, our professor found examples of I6/4 four introduced officially as cadential (on a donwbeat, after a subdominant chord, with all the expectations for a dominant to come) but resolved into different chords, among them I6. The latter is a rare situation but is quite beautiful, and it does reveal the I6/4 in the light of the tonic, for there is no tension to resolve. In such cases, probably a good explanation requires to say "an arpeggiated six-four on a down beat".

In short, the more you consider the cadential six-four a chord in its own right (which exhibits in a unique manner the conflict between tonic and dominant), the less obstacles you will have in your analyses. But once you have subscribed to an extreme concept (i.e., the cadential is V or the cadential is I) you will continue to experience problems. Not to speak of the fact that in Schenkerian theory the cadential six-four does not exist. Therefore, all of these fine points and elegant nuances of resolution mentioned above will be thrown under the rug by a Schenkerian purist - in favor of an unquestionable V.

The same happens with the perfect ascending line 5-6-7-8. It is in no manner less convincing than the descending urline 5-4-3-2-1. But Schenkerians do not pay attention to it, for the theory forbids such a "heresy", and each time they see it and hear it clearly, they erase it and look "deeper" to find an imaginary line to replace it. This is an example of what I call "theory which bends the music for the sake of proving an inflexible concept." I am in favor of theoretical concepts which are flexible and open to the diversity in music.

Best regards,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666

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