[Smt-talk] Theory textbooks

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Tue May 1 11:00:28 PDT 2012

Dear Ildar and the list,

I did not mention Schenker in this context (and I agree with you that 
Schenkerian theory probably would not be much help for teaching 
elementary tonal writing). My question concerned the root progression 
theory of the Sechter/Bruckner tradition, of which another important 
representative is Schoenberg.
     I feel that the problem with German Funktionstheorie is its 
dualism: the function is viewed as a relation between two chords (say, 
between dominant and tonic, or between subdominant and tonic), but the 
theory has little to say of the direction of the relation: Riemann makes 
little difference between I--V and V--I (or between I--IV and IV--I) 
and, above all, does not see the relation of similitude between V--I and 
I--IV, for instance. (This problem exists also in neo-Riemannian theory.)
     The cycle TSDT that you describe seems to me much better accounted 
for in root progression theory. Besides, Riemann himself seems to have 
had some problems with it, especially with the progression from S to D.
     I must confess that while I have read a lot of Riemann, I am less 
informed about later forms of the theory, e.g. Louis and Thuille or, 
more recently, Diether de la Motte. The question that I have, to put it 
otherwise, is about the point of keeping to three functions only, if 
dualism is abandoned. It has been said that root progression theory is a 
theory of six or seven functions: why not?

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 1/05/2012 19:19, Ildar Khannanov a écrit :
> Dear Nicolas and the List,
> I have studied both (German Funktionstheorie in Russia and Schenkerian 
> theory of scale-degrees in the United States). Both sides propose 
> statements but they do not necessarily adequately  translate into 
> pedagogic practice.
> I noticed that when students realize figured bass, they count notes 
> from each given bass up. I have seen some of them using fingres to 
> count. So, practically, on the undergraduate level, realization of a 
> figured bass presents calculating of the notes of each chord from a 
> bass up and adjustments made in response to schoolbook requirements of 
> voce leading (such as "resolve the seventh by step down). Ears may not 
> participate in this activity.
> I do not know of any compositional technique for building harmonic 
> progression using Schenkerian theory. Analysis--yes, actual composing 
> of a 4-part progression--no. There are some suggestions concerning 
> prolongation but they refer mostly to analysis of a given score. As 
> such, Schenkerian fundamtenal line is inaudible. It is purely graphic 
> phenomenon. If to reconstruct a harmonic progression from a given 
> fundamental line, we will receive one and the same harmonic 
> progression, a standard school-book harmony which has nothing to do 
> with actual endless variety of harmonic progressions in music.
> When a student builds a harmonic progression using functional theory, 
> he or she must hear the functions underlying an unfigured melody or 
> unfigured bass. It is impossible to simply calculate the possible 
> chords under a given note: this will not lead to a meaningful 
> progression. The only way to harmonize a given melody in functional 
> style is to hear the flow of functions in cycles of TSDT. This method 
> cannot promise a student the understanding of the structure of the 
> whole Beethoven' s symphony in one grasp, but can lead to knowledge of 
> shorter chord progressions, cycles, phrases, breathing curves of harmony.
> Tonal-harmonic function is a quality of a chord which connects it to 
> other chords and places it in a syntactic whole. Functional hearing, 
> based upon congnitive mechanisms of tension, attraction and 
> resolution, regulates horizontal dimension of a harmonic progression.
> Tonal-hamonic function is used not to separate chords into pure 
> verticalities, but to connect them in horizontal dimension. The only 
> agency which makes harmonic progression meaningful is its coordination 
> with the tonal-harmonic functional syntax. Of course, threre are 
> exeptions and licences which composers take, but they only make the 
> rule more meaningful and useful.
> Best,
> Ildar Khannanov
> Peabody Conservatory
> Johns Hopkins University
> solfeggio7 at yahoo.com <mailto:solfeggio7 at yahoo.com>
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