[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Fri Feb 24 15:48:28 PST 2012

Dear Thomas,

I agree that "the analysis of syntax in general and of harmonic syntax in particular amounts to the investigation of the interplay of its paradigmatic and syntagmatic aspects." I also agree that "the governing function of a tonic is a paradigmatic aspect. Its final position in a given harmonic sequence is a syntagmatic aspect."

It is in both aspects that the "S" label stands firm (please see my last posting for more details) for in I-IV-V-I progression, the I-IV connection is stronger than IV-V. The former exemplifies the connection between two polar areas (stability and instability) while the latter marks an increase in the instability level by one degree. The former is executed by a leap in the bass, and the latter by a step. The former answers the question "How do we leave the area of stability?" while the latter answers the questions "What is the lower level of instability that precedes the dominant?"

In other words, in the T-S-D-T there is no discrepancy between the syntagmatic aspect and the paradigmatic aspect in relation to S. The paradigm suggests an S function because the tonic center is the only point of gravity; and the syntax also suggests S because the arrangement T-S is of greater importance syntactically than S-D. As for D-T, it is the strongest connection which connects a most unstable state to the most stable foundation. But "what precedes this most unstable state (PD)" is not so important as "what breaks the stability (S)". 

This is why I thank you for your last sentence concerning T-S-D-T: "That's a proper syntactic statement, which describes an interdependency between a syntagmatic issue (order of harmonies in a sequence) and a paradigmatic issue (constellation of harmonic functions and keys). Excellently said: interdependency!

Best regards,


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

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