[Smt-talk] Augmented Sixth Conundrum

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Tue Jan 22 15:28:58 PST 2013

Dear Steve,

That is a wonderful point. My suggestions are:

1.	If E9-5+5 in second inversion resolves into the tonic or the cadential six-four of D major (which has an outer tonic structure) - it is an altered S chord on the second degree (SII alt.) No tonicization of a secondary triad or deceptive resolution is taking place.

2.	If it resolves into the dominant (A major triad), it tonicizes the latter as a secondary tonic, and therefore is to be determined as an altered dominant of the dominant DD alt. (V9 alt. of V)

Although a fine nuance is drawn between the functions of this chord depending on its resolution, the above labels may be used interchangeably, for the function of DD and S alt. are close in effect.

But this is not all. Since this chord is enharmonically identical with five more chords, built on whole steps from one another, it is also F#9 alt., Ab9 alt., Bb 9 alt., C9 alt., and D9 alt. Thus, ten more resolutions are possible as each of these chords may function as either an S alt. or DD alt. 

Still, this is not all! Another great resolution of this complex is as a “backdoor dominant” – bVII 9 alt. Thus E9 alt. will resolve into F# major; F#9 alt – into Ab major; Ab9 alt. – into Bb major; Bb9 alt. – into C major; C9 alt. – into D major; and D9 alt. – into E major. Thus, the circle of whole steps is closed. These resolutions do not treat the dissonant chord as an augmented sixth sonority, for there is a minor seventh instead.

I doubt if this is the end of the multidirectional potential of this chord! 

Thank you,


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

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