[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Sun May 6 12:49:18 PDT 2012

Dear Stephen,
I cannot agree more! Yes, it is the Subdominant which finalizes the determination of tonality. Schenker was wrong saying that tonality is unfolding of a tonic triad. In a very poetic metaphoric sense, it is true, but practically, tonality in music is created not by unfolding of a single triad but by interaction of several triads. 
I wanted to add that I disagree with professor Biamonte that it is sufficient to have only two, that tonic is defined and dominant defines. If there are only two of them, perception can play tricks on us and inadvertently T and D will change places turning into another pair, S and D. That is why Schenker is wrong again when placing only I and V on the same structural level and reducing IV to a grace note. Music will not live and breathe with only black-and-white, zero-and-one, yes-and-no system, going from I to V and back.
It is when the subdominant added to this dead oscillation, the processual, dynamic, temporal aspect of music is created. The subdominant triad which possesses neither the central position of tonic, nor the energy of domination of the dominant,  presents something on the side and sets off the ballance: instead of spacial T-D-T we receive temporal T-s-D-T and everything starts moving and the storyline of instrumental dramaturgy unfolding. 
Forgive me if I understood your posting incorrectly, but I have to confess, it feels like I saw the light at the end of a tunnel.
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
Johns Hopkins University
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

--- On Sat, 5/5/12, Stephen Jablonsky <jablonsky at optimum.net> wrote:

From: Stephen Jablonsky <jablonsky at optimum.net>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant
To: "Dmitri Tymoczko" <dmitri at princeton.edu>
Cc: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Date: Saturday, May 5, 2012, 7:17 AM

It is not the tonic that defines a tonality; it is a subdominant harmony followed by a dominant one. If you hear ii-V, or IV-V, or IV-vii, or ii-vii your ear knows where to find the tonic. Or, when Wagner presents his extended dominant climaxes he usually follows the tonic resolution with a subdominant to confirm the tonality (ex., Meistersinger Overture at the end).

On May 4, 2012, at 11:03 AM, Dmitri Tymoczko wrote:

On May 4, 2012, at 8:34 AM, Berry, David Carson (berrydc) wrote:

Consider George Howard's Course in Harmony (1886) -- also published by Presser. He too calls the sixth scale degree the "super dominant" ("a note above the dominant"), and the dominant itself is similarly characterized as having its name because it is the "ruling tone" (see p. 43). 

It's worth pointing out that, statistically, the dominant note is often stated more frequently (and for a longer total duration) than the tonic note.  (This is to be expected since it belongs to both tonic and dominant harmonies, which are themselves the most frequent chords.)  So there may be a true perception lurking underneath this unfamiliar metaphor.


Dmitri Tymoczko
Associate Professor of Music
310 Woolworth Center
Princeton, NJ 08544-1007
(609) 258-4255 (ph), (609) 258-6793 (fax)

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Prof. Stephen Jablonsky, Ph.D.
Music Department Chair
The City College of New York
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New York NY 10031
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