[Smt-talk] The "Governing tone"

Michele Ignelzi m.ignelzi at tin.it
Sat May 5 03:22:09 PDT 2012

Dear all,

Perhaps a (quite lengthy, sorry) quotation from Schoenberg may be  
appropriate here (_Theory of Harmony_, pp. 32-33):

"The application of the expression, dominant, to the Vth degree is  
not entirely correct. 'Dominant' means 'dominating' or 'governing'  
and would thus imply that the Vth degree 'governs' another or several  
others. Of course this is only a metaphor, but even so it does not  
seem right to me; for obviously the fifth tone, the _Quint_, appears  
later in the overtone series than the fundamental and has therefore  
less significance for the total sound than has the fundamental, which  
appears earlier, hence, more often[...] If anything dominates, it can  
only be the fundamental tone; and every fundamental can in turn be  
governed by a tone a fifth below it, in whose overtone series the  
former fundamental now takes second place, as the fifth. So if the  
metaphor is correct, then 'dominant' would be another name for the  
fundamental, since something of secondary importance should not be  
designated as governing something of primary importance."

Best greetings,

Michele Ignelzi
m.ignelzi at tin.it
Conservatorio Statale di Musica, Florence, Italy

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