[Smt-talk] The "Governing tone"

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Sat May 5 08:09:59 PDT 2012

Dear Steve,

We cannot ignore the metric position of a tonic structure  in second inversion and its surrounding chords. In a lot of circumstances a chord in second inversion is simply functioning as the original triad of which it is an inversion, only that the inversion is making it less perfect. In marches, polkas and waltzes, the arpeggiated six-four of whichever function is bearing clearly that function. The weak six-fours in general have no dissonance allusion, and depending on the tempo, they may heard as parts of prolongations or as weaker inversion of a root position triad. I have always been startled by generalizations that imply there are no second inversion triads! Ask composers who write piano accompaniments and popular songs; in many such cases, the left hand follows a model of convenience, where a second inversion triad is simply treated normally - as a root position chord, especially within the phrase.

Best regards,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666
From: Stephen Jablonsky [jablonsky at optimum.net]
Sent: Saturday, May 05, 2012 7:20 AM
To: Michael Luxner
Cc: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org; Daniel Arthurs; Ninov, Dimitar N; nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] The "Governing tone"

The dominant note is so powerful (and controlling) that a tonic triad in the second inversion sounds dominant, especially after much obfuscating chromatic motion.

On May 4, 2012, at 11:46 AM, Michael Luxner wrote:


How do you feel about considering the dominant the "governing tone?"  I don't think it's strange at all, and teach it that way all the time.  If tonic is perceived as the "pitch of rest," surely it must be resting from something, from some kind of tension that gives the sense of resolution when tonic is reached.  And that something, whether determined by the acoustics of the harmonic series or the habits of centuries of practice, would be the dominant.  Thus the dominant does, indeed, "govern" ("dominate") the tonic.

Michael Luxner, Ph.D.
Professor of Music
Millikin University

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>>> "Arthurs, Daniel" <Daniel.Arthurs at unt.edu<mailto:Daniel.Arthurs at unt.edu>> 5/3/2012 6:07 PM >>>
Dear List,

It seems very strange to me that he considers the dominant “the governing tone”; the subdominant is under it, but then he adds a second moon orbiting around the dominant when he describes VI as the super dominant, not submediant!

Danny Arthurs<http://music.unt.edu/mhte/node/208>
Lecturer of Music Theory<http://music.unt.edu/mhte/node/208>
Division of MHTE<http://www.music.unt.edu/mhte>
College of Music<http://www.music.unt.edu/>, UNT<http://www.unt.edu/>

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Prof. Stephen Jablonsky, Ph.D.
Music Department Chair
The City College of New York
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