[Smt-talk] Subdominant

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Sun May 13 19:46:07 PDT 2012

Dear Ildar and Giorgio,

What, do you think, has made Rameau discuss the irregular cadence (II6-5 - I) on the same foot with the perfect (V-I) and the deceptive (V-I6)? 

Of course, S is not so intense as D, and the plagal cadence is much more rare that the authentic one. Furthermore, we will witness longer passages, and even entire sentences (especially in children's songs) built of T and D alone. But this is because the most polar points of tonality are juxtaposed, with the assumption that there is more to it: for example, if the S function is skipped in a well-outlined musical idea, then the dominant will probably appear at some point as V7, not just as V. Well, the seventh degree of the dominant chord carries the subdominant function on the crest of the dominant chord, and this defines the tonality much better than the mere juxtaposition  of I and V.

This is why Fetis says that V7 - I is enough to outline a key. Because this combination already contains three colors in it. But I-V-I does not. 

To come back to the uniform background for all pieces in tonal music that Schenker was aware of; his foundation is on two pillars, and he draws his tonal picture is in black and white. As Ildar once gave me a very good idea: many theorists love talking about beginning, middle, and end - in terms of formal structures. Well, if this idea is transferred into the realm of harmonic syntax, the beginning will be T, the middle - S, and the end -D-T. Stability (T)- Instability (S, which challenges the tonic, and counters the dominant) - Intense Instability (D) -Stability (T). Schenker's background in this sense consists of a beginning and end. The middle does not exist.

Best regards,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666

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