[Smt-talk] Genuine Neighboring Six-Four Chord and More

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 15 12:33:18 PST 2013

Dear Dimitar and the List,

so, you are saying that some chords are not created by standard voice leading patterns (with emphasis on adjacency)? I cannot agree more with that. Add to this another sacred cow, the V6/4-5/3. I have been convinced by my teachers on both continents that it is a double suspension to the dominant. And yet, God forbid, if the melody goes up Sol-Ti-Do instead of preprorgammed Mi-Re-Do, it is quite difficult to explain to, say, a bright freshman that the generic version is still Mi-Re-Do. And our friend Heinrich would start twisting our arms by making up new essences (register transfer, implied tones, etc.), but the fact is, it is Sol-Ti-Do. Melodically, by the way, much more beautiful than the dull Mi-Re-Do.

Categorically speaking, it was a mistake of Schenker to try to reduce all the variety of regularities in music to a single principle (adjacent coordination of tones, which he erroneously taken for the essence of counterpoint). Perhaps, long time ago, at some point, in some cases, the V6/4-5/3 was the way of explanation, but then that 6/4 and 5/3 received independence from each other. There is nothing to argue about, really. It is a cognitive mechanism, well-known in other areas of human activity. First, we need a context to operate with something, then we can operate with this thing outside that particular context and in a number of new contexts. This is, probably, one of the ways to explain tonal-harmonic function, the fact that after a while the subdominant becomes what it is--the subdominant, independently of its "parents". If we insist on validity of the old rules, composers would appear as a bunch of hooligans.


Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com 

On Sunday, December 15, 2013 2:30 AM, "Ninov, Dimitar N" <dn16 at txstate.edu> wrote:
Dear Colleagues,

I came across interesting phenomena in one of Schumann’s songs (Der Einsiedler, No. 3 of Drei Gesänge, Op. 83).

1) A neighboring 6/4 chord on a supposed III chord in F in m.4, surrounded by different harmonies. Please, notice that I am not talking about a pedal six-four which some people erroneously call “neigboring” – I am talking about a genuine neighboring 6/4, whose bass is an upper neighbor of the tones that surround it. When I was a student, we were told about the neighboring 6/4 just for reference, but I have rarely come across this interesting and quite rare event. Now some of you probably understand why I objected the term “neighboring 6/4” as related to conventional pedal 6/4 chords, but it does not hurt reiterating that: a) the name of the six-four chord is determined by the contour of the bass, and not by the way the upper voices connect to each other, no matter how smoothly this could be; and b) there is a genuine neighboring 6/4 in music, whose bass is a real neighbour (more likely an upper neighbour) to the surrounding tones. 

2) A leaping 6/4 with a tonic structure, which connects T5, of course failing to produce an authentic resolution. It is interesting that this 6/4 is preceded by V7, but still the appearance of a tonic structure with a dominant bass before the resolution of the genuine dominant directly into T creates the impression of D and T over a dominant bass, after which T appears. One may say there is an anticipation of T in the form of the entire tonic itself, over a D bass.

3) The tonic of the main key (F) does not show up for five full measures from the beginning of the song until measure 6, and the initial passage sounds like D natural minor until the appearance of its harmonic dominant (A7) in measure 5. In fact, the entire piece oscillates between Dm and F, finally stopping in the latter. This duality is called by some Russian scholars “changing tonalities”, passages which oscillate between two relative keys. Notice the “minor dominant” with a 4-3 suspension, followed by VI with a suspension, finally D minor being outlined in a more decisive manner through II2 – V6–V2–I6. Of course, the chords before that could be explained like II–III–VI in F, but this somewhat fails to outline the profile of the major tonality – it is only our “knowledge” that the piece is eventually in F that reinforces some psychological boost of the non-existing F major in the beginning.

There are a lot of interesting events in Schumann’s music and in the Romantic music literature in general, and it is only a pity that some colleagues teach harmony as if the common practice period begins with Bach and ends with Beethoven. In the daily practice of harmonic analysis and part writing, they do not introduce their students to more unusual connections, free resolutions of V7, interesting modal decisions, and much more. By the way, Bach’s music is abundant with probably the boldest harmonic solutions, the study of which could produce an original book of harmony of its own. Occasionally, there is a plagal cadence and a half-cadence on a fermata, probably creating a little stir in some minds which are programmed to not see or hear an S function in all tonal music (smiling face).

Thank you,


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