[Smt-talk] Soudominante versus Sous-dominante (was: Subdominant versus Predominant)

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Tue Mar 13 08:51:49 PDT 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Now that the guns are not blazing anymore, I want to share with you a wonderful summary of the three pillars of the key made by the French composer Vincent d'Indy in his Cours de composition musicale. His lectures were held between 1897-1898 in Schola Cantorum, and the book was published by Durant in 1912.

On page 109 we read: 

Les trois fonctions tonales

On nomme fonction tonale de l'Accord le caractere speciale que cet accord prend dans notre esprit suivanmt qu'il nous ets presente:

1. comme point de depart ou comme mesure;
2. comme determinatif d'une oscillation vers la quinte superieure;
3. comme determinatif d'une oscillation vers la quinte inferieure;

Lse fonctions tonales de l'Accord sont donc de trois sortes, et rigoureusement symetrique dans le deux modes.

1. l'accord gui sert de depart remplit la focntion de tonique;
2. l'accord de quintequinte superieure est dit fonction de dominante;
3. l'accord de quinte inferieure est dit fonction de sous-dominante.

I bleived in that a long time before I came across the above descriptions.

The chord of the upper fifth (D) and the chord of the lower fifth(S)...helping us to perceive the tonic as an axis around which all the elements of tonality revolve. The tonic differs from the fundamental in an overtone series; while you cannot place anything below a fundamental, you could certainly place anything below the tonic. Therefore, its function is more complex than that of a fundamental; the tonic is an axis of gravity.

But I was thinking about something else. I still maintain that PD is not an appropriate term for S, because S does not depend on the dominant for its existence. But there is one chord which entirely depends on the dominant for its existence: the cadential six-four. This is the only and real PD chord, which creates a pre-dominant phase in an unprecedented way. Unfortunately, in Schenkerian theory it does not exist, and we go back to the old argument of a dominant with suspension versus tonic above a dominant bass. I think we all are tired of that.

Thank you,


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

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