[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

Ciro Scotto ciro.scotto7 at gmail.com
Sun Feb 26 09:34:30 PST 2012

Hello Dimitar,

I meant to respond earlier to David Carson Berry's post about the term "pre-dominant" in texts, specifically in Aldwell and Schacter. Fortuitously, your current question of whether T, S, and D expressing the key is a Schenkerian idea intersects with Berry's post, so I can address both at once. Chapter 9 of the second edition of Harmony and Voice Leading is titled "Leading to V: IV, II and II6." While it is true that A&S consider these chords members of the more general class intermediate harmonies, they apparently consider IV, II, and II6 a special subclass of intermediate harmonies performing, as the chapter title suggests, the function of leading to V. I consider the historically later term predominant a simplification by later theorists of the more wordy "subclass of intermediate harmonies that lead to V." As to your question, if we take A&S as surrogates for Schenker, then Schenkerian theory does express the idea of the key defining function of T, S, and D. Here is a quote from page 124:

"Although a number of different chords can function as intermediate harmonies, IV, II, and their derivatives form the most important possibilities. They are particularly well suited to lead into and intensify dominant harmony. Their roots lie between scale degrees 1 and 5; both are active scalar elements, unlike scale degree 3, which has the stability of a tone belonging to tonic harmony. I-IV-V and I-II-V, therefore, are more intense progressions than I-I6-V, whose bass arpeggiates the stable tones, 1, 3, and 5. Furthermore, the three chords of these new progressions contain all the notes of the scale. This helps to express the key, as does the inevitable juxtaposition of scale degree 4 ( in II or IV) and scale degree 7 (in V), which, between them, produce the key-defining interval of the diminished 5th."

Sure Schenker's house has two main columns, but they are supported by a structural beam linking the columns. All three structures express the key.

All the best, 


On Feb 26, 2012, at 11:00 AM, Ninov, Dimitar N wrote:

> Dear Nicholas,
> Thank you for this quotations. They only reflect what I have been saying up to now, namely: "By associating the fourth degree to the two preceding ones (the first and the fifth), the tonal effect is complete." Also, "...they [T, S,, and D] form the "bonnes notes" of the key". That is not Schenkerian, is it? Schenker does not need the 4th scale degree to complete the tonal effect and he does not think that T, S and D form the "bonnes notes" of the key - he builds a house on two columns instead of three. 

Dr. Ciro G. Scotto             
Assistant Professor of Theory  
University of South Florida       
home:    (813) 443-6801
cscotto1 at usf.edu
cscotto at tampabay.rr.com

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