[Smt-talk] Subdominant

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Wed May 16 15:43:41 PDT 2012

Ildar, Dimitar,
> 1) Nobody, neither in the 19th, nor in the 18th century, used the term 
> "predominant" or used the idea of scale step 4, the triad on scale 
> step 4, any modified chords on scale step 4 in the function of 
> "predominant."
I think that Rameau's idea of the chain of dominants leading (as 
sevenths and their resolution) to the "dominante-tonique", as distinct 
from the subdominant leading (as 6/5 and its resolution) to the tonic, 
anticipates the distinction between "predominant" and "subdominant".
> 2) The theory of Heinrich Schenker is filled with major 
> inconsistencies and crude errors of judgement.
This may be so, it is your judgment, about which I won't argue here. 
Note however that the idea of the "predominant" never is mentioned, 
either directly or indirectly, in Schenker's own writings, and that 
nothing indicates that its American origin is to be found in Schenkerian 
circles. If you can produce evidence for a Schenkerian origin, I'd be 
much interested.
> The subdominant is not the only problem in this theory. The next topic 
> for discussion can be the leading tone. Apparently, Nicolas does not 
> like the idea of the leading tone as such, as the source of attraction 
> to tonic.
It is not that I "do not like the idea", rather that I came, at one 
point in my reflexion on tonality, to the conclusion that it may be wise 
to consider the situation of tonal music without presupposing the tonal 
center (and the attractions it is supposed to cause). To state that a 
composition is tonal because of the attractions leading to the tonic is 
to beg the answer and my explicit concern was how we could decide that a 
composition was tonal without presupposing that it was.
     I therefore took the methodological stance of supposing that there 
were no a priori attractions, and it resulted in my theory of harmonic 
vectors, which claims that tonal harmony may be directed primarily by 
such algorithmic principles as the descending fifth progression. I am 
perfectly aware of the shortcomings of this theory, especially in 
explaining the tonal centricity, because descending fifths inexorably 
lead away from their starting point. I suggested that the centricity 
resulted from a necessary substitution, more specifically from a 
"parallel" neo-Riemannian relation from minor to major, which appears 
necessary in any tonal phrase.
     This is a rather complex theory, but it has nothing to do with 
Schenker, and I began writing about it at a time when I knew nothing of 
> And the Master Himself: "The new confusing world of "leading tones" 
> and "doublings" is fabricated, a world of which the true theory of 
> voice-leading and scale-degrees can know nothing."
Can you provide the reference of this quotation? I'd be interested.
Thanks in advance,


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