[Smt-talk] Soudominante versus Sous-dominante

Thomas Noll noll at cs.tu-berlin.de
Sun Mar 11 08:19:18 PDT 2012

Dear Nicolas,
many thanks for this very clarifying answer and thank you also for your earlier pointing at the conceptual link between the subdominant as a scale degree below the dominant and the predominant. In a Schenkerian perspective the root 4^ of a predominant IV (as well as the real bass of a predominant II6) will be linearly interpreted as an (incomplete) neighbor to the root 5^ of a root position V, which then highlights the neighboring position to 5^ and suppresses the other meaning of being a fourth above 1^. It is really interesting to see, how the two competing paradigmatic meanings of sous-dominant split the the music-theoretical discourse into two traditions of reasoning about harmony. This might indicate, that we should still gain more insights from the possibility as such to have these competing paradigms.
Thomas Noll     

On 11.03.2012, at 14:37, Nicolas Meeùs wrote:

> Dear Thomas, dear colleagues,
> My answers are between quotations from your message:
>> (1) The two meanings:
>> [...]
>> Joel Lester (1994) writes in "Compositional Theory in the Eighteenth Century" (p. 132) the following:
>> "In the Nouveau systéme, Rameau adopts the name subdominant (sous-dominant); apparently coined as soudominante in Dandrieu c. 1719) to refer to scale step 4 as well as to the added sixth chord build there. Whereas Jean-Françiios Dandrieu (c. 1682 - 1738) probably intended the prefix  sub to refer to the note below the dominant, Rameau denotes by that prefix that scale-step 4 lay a fifth below the tonic, complementing the dominant a fifth above the tonic. Just like the dominant, the subdominant supports a dissonant first chord of a cadence.
> This is very true for the Nouveau systême. Yet, let me quote from the Master thesis of my former student Anne-Emmanuelle Ceulemans ("Les conceptions fonctionnelles de l'harmonie de J. Ph. Rameau, Fr. J. Fétis, S. Sechter et H. Riemann", UCL, 1989) (my English):
> Initially [i.e. in Nouveau systême], it is clear that this subdominant was to be understood as the dominant under, that which is symmetrical with respect to the upper dominant. Rameau himself is nevertheless responsible for the erroneous conception that one could have made of the subdominant as being the note immediately under the dominant, as in his Dissertation (p. 7) he introduces the term "sus-dominante" [superdominant] to denote the note above the dominant, parallel to the subdominant. In Génération harmonique he will make use also of the concept of "sus-tonique" [supertonic] (p. 135 in the Jacobi edition) and in the alphabetic table of terms that closes the work, he defines the subdominant as follows:
> SOUDOMINANTE. C'est la quinte au-dessous, et par Renversement la Quarte du Son principal, dit Note-Tonique, et qui se trouve immédiatement au-dessous de la dominante dans l'ordre Diatonique.
> [Subdominant. In is the fifth under, and by inversion the fourth above the principal sound, said Note-Tonique, and which is found immediately under the dominant in the diatonic order.]
>> (2) The two expressions:
>> Are the prefixes sou and sous-  the same or not? Could one associate a semantic difference between the two creations "soudominant" and "sous-dominant"? "Something which is below the Dominant" vs. "a Dominant which is below something"?
> A partial answer may be found in ancient French dictionaries, e.g. http://artfl-project.uchicago.edu/content/dictionnaires-dautrefois, which give the following information:
> – The term sous-dominante appears for the first time in the 6th edition (1835) of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française; it is not in the 5th edition (1798), nor in the 4th (1762), and most certainly not in the previous editions. It was found, of course, in specialized dictionaries, e.g. Rousseau.
> – Compound words beginning with sous- appear in in the 1st edition (1694) of the Dictionnaire (sous-gouverneur, sous-locataire, sous-sacristain, and the like) and in the following ones.
> – The same edition also has compound words beginning with sous without hyphen: sousbarbe, souschantre, sousdiacre, sousferme, sousprieur (but sous-prieure, in the feminine), etc. It even includes "sousrire", which in modern French became "sourire" (but which lost its status of compound word). But these forms disappear in later editions.
> – I found in the same edition (1694) only one single compound word beginning with sou: souquenille.
> – The earlier form, documented only in Jean Nicot's Thresor de la langue francoyse (1606) is soub (soubchantre, soubgardien, etc.).
> I see no way in which a semantic difference could be made between sou and sous-. In the case of "soudominante" vs "sous-dominante", note that Rameau, in the quotation from Génération harmonique above, uses "soudominante" apparently for both acceptions, "something below the dominant" and "a dominant below something". I have no inventory of the term in 19th-century French texts, but it certainly is not used at all by Fétis.
> Yours,
> Nicolas Meeùs
> Université Paris-Sorbonne

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


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