[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Tue May 8 02:37:49 PDT 2012


I am frightened to see how Schenker is reproached things that he never 
wrote. I find it is extremely difficult to continue this discussion if 
we do not refer to the same texts. In my editions of Schenker at least, 
he so to say NEVER beams 1, 3, 5 in the bass (see below).

You may be aware that Schenker did not draw analytical beams before his 
analysis of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, in /Das Meisterwerk/ III, 1930. 
Neither there, nor in /Five Graphic Analyses/, do the bass beams clearly 
represent the main progression in the bass. It is therefore /Free 
Composition/ only that concerns us – which already raises the question 
whether this book can be considered representing Schenker as a whole.

Examples 14, 15, 16 and 18 of /FC/ illustrate various forms of the /Wege 
des basses zur Oberquint /at the firs level of the middleground; they 
show first the bass alone (example 14), then under lines from ^3 (15), 
from ^5 (16) and from ^8 (18). The bass beams always denote what for 
Schenker is the main arpegiation, I–V–I. He does consider that the other 
notes are hierarchically less important, but I think that this hierarchy 
may be considered possible – unless you believe that there exists only 
one truth. You say that in real progressions (why "real"?) T, S and D 
have equal status; but how can you be sure of that, equal status for whom?

The notes other than the dominant in examples 14-18 are marked with 
Roman numerals, I6, II, III or IV. Whenever the figure is I6 or III, it 
is put between parentheses; whenever the figure is II or IV, it is 
underlined by the double curve denoting the oscillation between 
/Unterquint/ and /Oberquint/. This all makes clear, I believe, that the 
subdominant (II or IV) is considered the most important degree after the 
dominant itself, and certainly more important than III.

In the other examples in /FC/, the bass beam, if any, usually joins 
I–V–I. There are very few exceptions:
– example 40.2 includes I6 in the beam, but the numeral is written 
between parentheses. Schenker most probably understands it as a 
continuation of the initial I; and he underlines the following II–V/–/I 
progression with the usual double curve.
– examples 40.9 and 104 beam I–IV–V–I, and example 46 includes the same 
degrees under a secundary beam.
– example 89.2 beams I–III–V/–/I. This, unless I am mistaken, is the 
SOLE case, in the whole of Schenker's writings, where III is included in 
the bass beam.
You are right that IV or II often are indicated as eighth notes; but the 
flag is intended to stress the note (Schenker also uses half notes with 
a flag).

You seem to consider that /Bassbrechung/ means I–III–V–I: this certainly 
is not Schenker's idea. I am afraid that the person you name "Schenker" 
is not the same as mine. Yours is the result of an American 
normalization that followed the translation of /freie Satz/, and of 
which the recent translations of /Der Tonwille /and /Das Meisterwerk/ 
should mark the end or at least a correction.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 7/05/2012 23:48, Ildar Khannanov a écrit :
> Dear Nicolas,
> [...] On every Schenkerian graph, on all three levels, the notes in 
> the bass which he randomly selects always comprise the arpeggiation of 
> the tonic triad. It is always 1, 3, 5 that are beamed together. If 
> there is 4, it is notated with the " single eighth note,' that is, 
> with the note with the stem and the flag. In all graphs it means that 
> the Subdominant it downgraded to the "lower structural level' than 
> Tonic and Dominant.
> [...]
> So, there are problems with the idea of continuity in Schenker. 
> Everybody likes continuity, but the model of Bassbrechung is simply 
> wrong: it does not describe the practice of harmonic progression. In 
> real progressions of music of Baroque and Classico-Romantic period T, 
> S, and D have equal status.
> Best,
> Ildar Khannanov
> Peabody Conservatory
> Johns Hopkins University
> solfeggio7 at yahoo.com <mailto:solfeggio7 at yahoo.com>
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