[Smt-talk] Subdominant

Slottow, Stephen Stephen.Slottow at unt.edu
Fri May 18 06:43:55 PDT 2012

I recently ran across an example of Olli's "partition" vs. "penult"
principles in the Minuet to Beethoven's first  Symphony. M.11 initiates a
falling-thirds sequence with three units (the third abbreviated) that
leads to a Gb major chord in m.19 that acts as IV/Db and leads to an
auxiliary cadence in Db. The sequence can be parsed according to the
beginning points of each unit, that is, in Vl. I, Ab-G F-Eb Db-C (leading
to Bb over Gb). But it can also, or additionally, be read as an Ab-C voice
exchange. I rather like the VE, although the compression of the third
sequential unit makes it harder to hear. I think, though, that this is an
instance where one can have both readings.

I also agree with Frank's statement that one of the strongest features of
Schenkerian analysis is its "interpretive flexibility (supported by clear
logic)," as is the case with performances. I recently published a short
paper on that aspect in Res Musica 3/2011 (published by the Estonian
Academy of Music). Olli Väisälä, however (who has an article in the same
journal), is continuing to develop more systematic and clear criteria for
choosing between interpretations. I'm quite interested in this aspect of
his work, since it is so central to the Schenkerian method.

Stephen Slottow
Associate Professor of Music
College of Music
University of North Texas

On 5/17/12 1:56 PM, "Olli Väisälä" <ovaisala at siba.fi> wrote:

>Some further thoughts on the opening of Carnaval:
>Frank Samarotto's and Eytan Agmon's discussion raises interesting
>questions about the criteria of determination of structural weight in
>Schenkerian analysis, an issue that I have pondered a lot in recent
>A crucial criterion, on which most of us would probably agree, is
>that in a passage of unified design, based on the repetition of a
>pattern, the framing points should be strongly preferred as the two
>elements with the greatest structural weight. In the Schumann, mm. 3­
>6 form such a passage, especially on the basis of the sequential
>right-hand part. Consequently, the IV and the V at the endpoints of
>this passage are structurally superior to the intervening chords, as
>both Frank and Eytan (and myself) agree.
>I would suggest, however, that the criteria for determining the next
>most significant element are more complex. Two principles seem to
>compete here, which might be called "partition principle" and "penult
>principle". Under partition principle, the elements that occur at the
>points that subdivide the passage take precedence. This principle
>would support Eytan's reading of the "I" in m. 5 as overriding the
>subsequent V4/3 of V. Under penult principle, the next-to-last
>element tends to take precedence. This principle supports, of course,
>Frank's reading of a voice-exchange between the IV and the V4/3 of V.
>My analytical experience suggests that it is by no means simple to
>decide which of these two principles is more powerful in each case.
>Sometimes the penult has to be chosen simply because it is
>indispensable for the Schenkerian syntax. But the question can also
>be approached from an empirical viewpoint: are there some particular
>compositonal features ­ for example, registral or gestural ­ that
>might reflect the structural signficance of either the partition
>points or the penult?
>In the present case both the "I" and the V4/3 of V are syntactically
>possible. As an empirical argument, one might note that the V4/3 of V
>is registrally underlined by the bass's leap, which deviates from the
>preceding motion. Hence, this aspect would support Frank's reading of
>voice exchange (on which I am also intuitively inclined to agree).
>The dilemma between the partition principle and penult principle has,
>of couse, much larger implications for Schenkerian studies, and is
>one of the several evidential questions of Schenkerianism that would
>be in need of better illumination.
>Olli Väisälä
>Sibelius Academy
>ovaisala at siba.fi
>Smt-talk mailing list
>Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org

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