[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

S. Alexander Reed alexreed at ufl.edu
Fri Feb 24 13:14:15 PST 2012

Dimitar Ninov writes:

> I was also puzzled that Kostka and Payne consider IV a substitute for
> II. This is strange, given the fact that in classical and romantic
> music the typical subdominant bass is the 4th scale degree. II6 is a
> substitute for IV, not the other way around. In jazz, however, the II
> gets the upper hand, as II-V-I is the skeleton. Perhaps this is what
> confused the authors.

In a theoretical typology, it's convenient to think of root position as 
the normative state for any given triad, and pedagogically, it's 
certainly easier to teach it that way.  The recent (perennial) 
discussion of I64 as fundamentally distinct from I, however, makes me 
wonder.  The hierarchical privileging of root position triads might be 
one reason why many theorists consider ii-V-I or IV-V-I to be special 
cadential archetypes (determined presumably by circle-of-fifths motion 
or bass motion, respectively), when in fact the ii6 chord in its 
pre-dominant role might be both more theoretically satisfying 
(emphasizing bass motion to the dominant while increasing the 
supertonic's melodic drive to resolve) and more statistically reflective 
of actual musical practice (perhaps Dmitri can fill us in here).  We 
need not see ii6 as a compromise between ii and IV, but as a logical 
approach to the dominant unto itself.  From this, a root position ii or 
IV chord might instead be seen as a deviation.

Alex Reed
Assistant Professor
University of Florida
alexreed at ufl.edu

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