[Smt-talk] Dominant, Governing, and Authentic

Paul Setziol setziolpaul at earthlink.net
Sun May 6 14:27:54 PDT 2012

Dear list,

I started this post with a synopsis of an understanding I have taught for 30 years regarding the subdominant in the flow of the current threads but I decided to set it aside for another occasion.

What prompted me to switch is that I kept waiting for someone to bring up that which I take to be fundamental to tonality (as opposed to modality).  As I'm sure we all know, in the Renaissance, the trend towards tonality became a tidal wave primarily because of the standard coming to cadence where the two part version was the highly normative re-do in one voice with ti-do in the other (Phrygian aside). Setting aside three voices for now, when we come to four voices the ti-do and re-do are still there with the emerging bass phenomenon harmonizing the essential contrapuntal design. [Someone might be tempted to bring up inner voices not going directly from ti to do but I'd like to see a bunch of examples of the soprano not doing it before I would change my mind.]

Jumping more into the current threads -  the dominant as "governing tone" I find analogous to "chanting tone", in other words, an alternative to Do.  The real juice, what makes cadences authentic in progression, has always been the leading tone. Thus I find it very misleading when people talk about the dominant exclusively as a major triad on sol when that misses the authentic point - the leading tone. It goes back to the definition of primary tendency in scales. The harmonization isn't even necessary for modulation.

The history of the scale degree names is very interesting but I find some of the different posts passing as ships in the night where one person might be thinking of a scale degree in relation to an adjacent scale degree (where the relationship is essentially linear and having less to do with any harmonizing tones) while another person is thinking of root relations in progression, holding that there are only three kinds of root relations, fifth, third, and seconds (because of the commonality of "normal" voice leading). It's both, with the center of authentic dominant functions being a duality of dominant as alternative to Do and as leading to Do (leading tone harmonizer).

I left many things out but I want to be sensitive to the length of posts.

Best Wishes

Paul Setziol
Musicianship Coordinator and Department Chair
De Anza College
Cupertino, California
setziolpaul at earthlink.net
setziolpaul at deanza.edu

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