[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Fri May 11 07:48:49 PDT 2012

Dear Nicolas and the List,
I apologize for excessive presence on this branch of discussion, but I have another question for those well versed in Schenkerian graphic reduction. As I already mentioned, the concept of bass arpeggiation seems quite questionable to me. If Schenker wanted to arpeggiate or "break" the tonic triad, he had to place its third on the same level as the root and the fifth. Our students know that without the third it is not a triad at all. Then, he also had to include the subdominant tone as representing one of three most important harmonies, one of well-known Drei Akkorden.
However, I have also a question about Urlinie. What strikes me every time I see it is that the notes for it are selected absolutely randomly, by the method of "filling-in-the-gap." There are very important structures which Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, etc.,  were working with. They include motive, phrase, theme, segments and topics of larger forms, those "nice places" mentioned by Schoenberg. The notes of Urlinie completely disregard these segmentations, as if they were superfluous in actual composition, which is not true. Pargraph 50 from FC does not make any sense. This puts graphic reduction in a precarious position by completely isolating it from any possibility of "composition or audition."
The very premise of Schenker's reduction, that melody has to go stepwise, is true, but there are details, and devil, as we know, hides in them. Schenker apparently has read some Fux and Kirnberger, from which he understood the "rules of melody in a strict style." However, anybody who studied strict style formally (being enrolled in a class or seminar) remembers, that although melody preferrably goes by steps, it is very important to have leaps. Even in Gregorian chant one can find both stepwise motion and leaps. So, after all, the requirement for stepwise motion cannot be universalized. It is a fine matter. Maximally smooth cycles, adjacency, parsimony are not ultimate criteria of good voice leading. Yet, quite disapointingly, Schenker reduces melody to stepwise descending motion, as if it represents the essence of "counterpoint." The Sol-Fa-Mi-Re-Do and Three Blind Mice motive do not represent the essence of  either melody or couterpoint. In fact,
 it is a caricature on melody and voice leading. It is not a protostructure of melody, but its superficial and clicheed version, the surface in the wost meaning of this word. No compser would be preoccupied with it.  One of the most beautiful examples of good voice leading and counterpoint is Beethoven's theme of Adagio cantablie from op. 13. The melody moves by step 6 times, and leaps 6 times. It would be horribly unmusical to try to eliminate those noble leaps in a graphic reduction. The trick of naming them "neighbour skips" will not help either.
So, if someone could clarify the problem with the Urlinie to me, I would be the most grateful.
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
Johns Hopkins University

--- On Thu, 5/10/12, Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr> wrote:

From: Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant
To: "Ildar Khannanov" <solfeggio7 at yahoo.com>
Cc: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Date: Thursday, May 10, 2012, 8:56 AM


If you do not want to consider my arguments, I see little point to continue this discussion.

Let me stress, very shortly:
– that Schenker's hierarchy of notes is not half note, quarter note, eighth note, in this order. It depends on context. Often, he adds a flag to a note stem to stress that note, not to reduce it to half its value. This is why he may add the flag to a white note as well as to a black one. The notes that Schenker writes white are not necessary half notes, nor black ones necessary quarter notes.
– that Schenker does not use the word arpeggio, although it existed in German. He writes Brechung, which has a similar meaning but a different etymology (it is akin to the English break).
– that the fifth does not represent "at the same time" a linearization (or an arpeggiation, a breaking) of the tonic chord (its "divider at the fifth") and another harmony. In this you conflate two successive moments of the organic elaboration of the work. You may dislike this way of viewing things, you may consider it subjectively wrong. But you cannot state that it is objectively false.
– that the hierarchic importance of IV or II (as compared to V or I) is, I think, a matter of opinion (as I said before). You refuse this and you repeat your certitude that they share the same hierarchical status. This makes further discussion pointless.

The rest of your message is irrelevant to the present discussion.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 10/05/2012 02:29, Ildar Khannanov a écrit : 

Dear Nicolas,

I aologize for a mistake with beaming 1, 3, 5. I wanted to say that Schenker prioritizes scst3 in the bass line over scst 4. In the following examples:
Examples 14, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 5b,
Examples 15, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a,
Example 16, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b,4a,
Example 18, 1abc, 2ab, 3ab, 4ab, FC, Longman 1979 Schenker marks scst3 as a “quarter note” or “half note,” which is the status, next to a beamed note, while all the subdominants are given only a note head. He provides RN's I6 and III under each scst3. In so many examples, scst 3 receives higher priority than scst 4 in the bass. Why? Because Schenker himself called it bass arpeggiation: 

quote: I-V-I bass linearizes the tonic triad through a disjunct apreggiation, by moving from the root to the upper fifth and back again. Schenker referred to this motion as bass arpeggiation (Bassbreshung). In Free Composition Schenker initially represents Ursatz without an intermediate harmony, although in later examples he shows how they may function in relation to I and V. The occurrences of certain intermediate harmonies—as in the case of IV moving to V—introduces stepwise motion in the disjunct bass arpeggiation (I-V-I). In fact, the introduction of melodic motion intensifies the motion toward the dominant. Ultimately, however, Schenker regarded intermediate harmonies as subsidiary to the tonic and dominant scale steps. p. 118. Analysis of Tonal Music. A Schenkerian Approach.
Allen Cadwallader and David Gangné. Oxford UP, 1998. end of quote 
Of course, the questions arise immediately: who said that playing scst1 and scst5 in the bass consecutively creates “arpeggiation”? I asked my wife, a harpist, She said 1 and 5 do not constitute arpeggio because they do not comprise a chord. Just in case, I quote:
Arpège. Terme italliene francisé (arpeggio): literal: jeu de harpe. C'est le'exécutions successive des notes d'un accord, du grave a l'aigu ou vice versa. 296. Encyclopédie de la Musique. Fasquelle, Paris 1958. End of quote. 
And, in general, how it can be that I and V “linearize tonic triad” and, at the same time, they represent two different harmonies (Tonic and Dominant)? These are small things, of course. 
You wrote: Schenker 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? 
My question: who told you, or Schenker, that “other notes are hierarchically less important”? They are not less important, neither they present “ structural functions less deep than the V.” This is a figment of your imagination. 
In general, one can “arpeggiate I and V” and embellish it ad nauseam. It will never create a meaningful harmonic progression. 
As for caricature, while you were fending off my attempts to question some aspects of Schenker's thinking, Schenker managed to turn into a monstrous caricature the whole history of music theory. If you and I were Schenker's contemporaries, he would have turned us into a caricature. He would turn you into a dwarf, and I would be simply pulverized to molecular level: we both speak languages other than German and come from the countries of Entente. Volker Schoendorff responded to that by depicting the “avengers of German genius” as dwarfs themselves. 


Ildar Khannanov 
Peabody Conservatory 
Johns Hopkins University 
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

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