[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 24 20:11:52 PST 2012

Dear Thomas and the List,
yes, Pre-dominant is a sort of syntagmatic concept. Then, it does not make any sense to leave two other terms in a sequence unchanged. So, Subdominant is Predominant, Dominant is Pretonic, and Tonic is Presubdominant. This completes an ideal mathematical model for a "sequence of harmonies." Its weak aspect is that it will circulate endlessly. There is circulatio in adiecto, or circular definition, or, more precisely, le cercle vicieux. Since I cannot stop spinning of this carousel, I have a question to Schenker: How to stop it? What is so special about Tonic that it, after all, has the capacity to stop such spinning? And, if he still decided to retain another old term, Dominant, What is so special about the dominant that is actually resolves into Tonic? And even after one agreed to retain Tonic and Dominant, the syntax cannot happen with just two polarities, of the type yes-no-yes-no. The Subdominant is a prerequisite for syntax. This may lead to
 a conclusion that tonal-functional syntax (musikalisches Syntaxis, according to Riemann), needs "abstract paradigmatic system" in order to function properly.
I understand why Schenker downgraded Subdominant. He had a strange idea that a harmonic progression is built upon unfolding of a triad. In some sense, all tonal music has a Tonic triad in the background, but harmonic progression as such is not just an embellishment on repeated three notes. Harmonic progression is interaction (dialogic, dialectic, and even, tragic) of at least three functions. Schenker did not understand that. He interpreted structural bass line as 1-3-5, thus endowing scale step 3 with structural status at the expense of scale step 4. It is very rare that scale step 3 plays any role at all  (most commonly either as a bass in I6 or as the root of mediant triad). Examples from Chopin, who, indeed, liked the motion from tonic to the mediant, are not appropriate. His intention was not to unfold a triad, but to leave triads and all other trivial aspects of our daily life and to fly into the transcendence. Other than Chopin, all
 great composers enjoyed structural bass lines with 1-4-5-1. Beethoven's slow movement of Appassionata comes to mind, and miriads of other examples. 
So, if one still wishes to improve, correct, reform and revise the theory of tonal syntax, it is important to go all the way and start using circular definitions.
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

 From: Thomas Noll <noll at cs.tu-berlin.de>
To: "Ninov, Dimitar N" <dn16 at txstate.edu> 
Cc: "smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org" <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org> 
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 2:22 PM
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

Dear Colleagues,
Pre-dominant is an (implicit) syntagmatic concept, dealing with the sequential order of harmonies in a harmonic progression.
Subdominant is a paradigmatic concept, dealing with the relative position of a harmonic function within an abstract system of such functions.
Thomas Noll

On 24.02.2012, at 16:55, Ninov, Dimitar N wrote:

Dear Colleagues,
>I have been thinking for a long time about the term "predominant" which has been in use mostly in Schenkerian theory or in theoretical formulations influenced by Schenker and his followers. I have come to the conclusion that this term is theoretically unjustified, and my arguments in support of this statement are explained below.
>As the planets in the solar system gravitate around the sun, so the chords in a tonal system gravitate around the tonic. The tonic is the only center of gravity in a key. Therefore, the harmonic function of any given chord is validated by its attitude towards the tonic. This attitude depends on the distance between the chord and the tonic, on the one hand, and on the structure of the chord, on the other.
>The term "subdominant" suggests that the IV chord is located a fifth below the tonal center, and that it is a "lower dominant". However, the term "predominant" contains no reference to the tonal center but to the dominant triad itself, as if a key had two centers. The attempt to validate a harmonic function with no relation to the tonal center seems theoretically unsupported to me.
>The IV and the II chords are called "predominants" because they stand "before" the dominant. But they also stand before the tonic (IV-I, II-I6; II6/5-I, etc.): how are they predominant in that case? On the other hand, I could attach the label "PD" to the tonic, the mediants, and all the different borrowed or altered chords that can precede the dominant. Would all these chords be “predominants” in such a context?
>Behind the dismissal of the term "subdominant" in a portion of contemporary American music theory stands the Schenkerian notion that a plagal relationship and a plagal cadence do not exist in music. According to this idea, any connection between IV and I, for example, will be interpreted as a "tonic prolongation". Therefore, the former subdominant function is evaluated not in the light of the tonic, but in the light of the dominant. This is how Schenkerian theory created two separate centers of evaluation of harmonic functions: the tonic, on the one hand, and the dominant, on the other. Two suns in a solar system.
>I would highly appreciate your thoughts concerning this matter.
>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

Thomas Noll
noll at cs.tu-berlin.de
Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya, Barcelona 
Departament de Teoria i Composició 



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