[Smt-talk] The Six-Four Portion Only

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 15 12:35:02 PST 2012

Dear List,
I did not see my message posted, or, perhaps, I send it only to Dimitar. Forgive me for cluttering your mailboxes, but I would like to offer my 2 cents on 6/4 chord interpretaton, as such and in connection to the dominant. 

From: "Ninov, Dimitar N" <dn16 at txstate.edu>
To: "smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org" <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org> 
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 1:58 PM
Subject: [Smt-talk] The Six-Four Portion Only

Dear Colleagues,

I do not know if we all have realized that, but the group which supported the T/D nature of the cadential six-four and the group which supported the packet V6/4-5/3 did not speak on equal terms.

We all talked about the "cadential six-four" which refers to a single structure - the 6/4 portion of a supposed dominant complex I6/4-V or V6/4-V5/3. But our colleagues who supported the full dominant function at the very beginning of this complex, kept calling the cadential six-four "V6/4-5/3". 

No, we are speaking of the 6/4 portion only - the one which they call "a dominant with suspensions"! V5/3 which follows V6/4 is not a dominant with suspensions, therefore, it should not be used as an argument when we test the qualities of the 6/4 structure!

Do not forget - the V6/4 structure, tested against a real dominant with suspensions such as V5/4 fails to produce an authentic resolution into the tonic. If the V6/4 structure were a real dominant with suspensions, we would be able to use it alone! This is just one of several reasons the "V6/4" label is wrong.

Best regards,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666
Smt-talk mailing list
Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org

Sure, the chord is bi-functional. It has some 40 percent  of tonicity and 60 percent of dominantness, just as Rachmaninoff's Subdominant (F-Ab-B-Eb in c minor) contains 40 percent of dominantness (Russ. dominantovost')--its upper two notes-- and 60 percent of subdominantess (Russ. subdominantness) --its two lower notes. However, at some point these two characteristics merge and--voila-- there is a new animal, the cadential 6/4 chord. I think that the problem of labeling it is redundant: if you call it "cadential six-four" you should label it this way. In Russian undergraduate theory, since 1937 at least, it is labeled as K6/4. Yes, it has a bit of tonicity and some of dominantness, but it functions as a separate function. It has earned its own functional definition by participating in the most important part of the metric period, in cadential measure (7). Then, the next chord is labeled as D7. So, altogether, S / K6/4  D7 / T.
K6/4 in a PAC presents a certain compositional strategy. It is not an embellishment or decoration of the V. We can compare the PAC with K6/4 to another type, the so-called Baroque cadence, with ii6/5 on the strong beat of cadential measure, instead of K6/4. The former goes as follows: t / Sii6/5 D7 / t.  Composers of Baroque period and of Classical period tend to avoid the V on the strong beat of a cadential measure. Bach used Sii6/5 in its place, Haydn--K6/4. The dominant in both cases appears on the weak beat. I assume that these composers were ready to use any function on the strong beat, but not the dominant. Suspensions from Netherlands polyphony are remote ancestors of these two cadences. However, in Bach and in Haydn, the chord on the strong beat is given its own function (S in case of Bach, and K in case of Haydn). 
In general, cadential 6/4 chord is not an abstract category: it has evolved through the history of music theory and cannot be perceived in abstract terms.
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
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