[Smt-talk] Criteria for Old and New

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 11 15:44:40 PDT 2013

My dear friend Nicolas,
(may I call you this way--after all, we have been exchanging the letters for several years now),
in the course of our exchange I have grown even stronger in my understanding of music and in my position in music theory. Accusation in that I do not hear you can be sent back to you, but there is no reason to engage in personal remarks. The internet blog is not the place to truly state theoretical ideas (it is normally a place to exchange photos from the restaurants and pictures of pets). Of course, it would be interesting if we exchanged the views through publications. I, from my side, can offer my modest attempt in an article "Hierarchy in Music Theory before Schenker" (Res musica, 4, Estonian Academy of Music and Theater, 2010). I invite you to criticise in in your publication anywhere. I can then respond, in writing.
On the other hand, I am working on so many interesting projects that expending my time on fighting with the windmills, proving that fake theory is fake, would be a luxury I cannot afford. Perhaps, I will find time to publish something on harmony, voice leading, Rameau, etc. At this point, I can assure you that behind me there is a tradition which is in no way less powerful that that of Schenker. I do not express my opinions. Rather, my statements are well-formulated principles, which were in the tradition for many decades, if not centuries. 
Best wishes,
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

--- On Mon, 3/11/13, Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be> wrote:

From: Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Criteria for Old and New
To: "Ildar Khannanov" <solfeggio7 at yahoo.com>
Cc: "smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org" <smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>
Date: Monday, March 11, 2013, 4:07 PM


I don't quite see what you mean by saying that the fundamental bass is 'real' and the singing bass 'not true'. What is certain is that, whenever they are not the same, the continuo bass is that written in the music and the fundamental bass is that imagined by the theorist.

Speaking of dissonances foreign to the harmony, you must realize that the French Conservatoires were conceived in the early 19th century as local branches of the Conservatoire National in Paris. The Conservatoire National issued official manuals which were to be used throughout the country. Most important for our discussion is Catel's Traité d'harmonie, which became the official manual for all conservatoires in France and which established the distinction between "natural" dissonances and contrapuntal ones. Fétis has been one of the most zealous advocates of this official, national doctrine, but even today Conservatoire teachers and students consider it Gospel. That is to say that to view dissonances as "foreign to the harmony" is neither new – it dates back to the 18th century –, nor risible. In your place, I would very much hesitate to call it "vulgar", especially in European circles were I believe it to be very common.

You cannot seriously claim that any embellishment bears tonal-harmonic function. This seems obvious in the case of a diatonic scale as embellishment of a chord: the passing notes in the scale have no other function in that chord (or in harmony at large) than that of being passing notes. Also, in the case, say, of a 4–3 suspension, where 4, however you consider it, is foreign to the harmony. You may claim that its preparation, in the preceding chord, belongs to that chord. But the preparation as such is not an embellishment.
    You may mean that these embellishment, whether they have 'harmonic' function or not, certainly are loaded with musical meaning, which would remind us of Schoenberg looking in vain for all these little notes in Schenkerian reductions. But this is one of the most essential misunderstandings about Schenkerian analysis. Schenker never ceased repeating that it where the embellishments that gave music its meaning. This had been one of the main points of his Beitrag zur Ornamentik, in 1904, and remained at the basis of his theory until the end, in Free Composition.

If you believe that T–S–D–T can express a tonality, then you do believe that it is an elaboration of a tonic (or, say, the affirmation of a tonic) because that is what these terms mean. You are bound to admit that the tonality exists at a level higher than any of these four chords, even if it obviously results from successions of this kind. T–S–D–T may be the mainframe component of harmonic progression, but T is the mainframe component of tonality.

The whole idea of analytic reduction is that it is just that, "analytic reduction". It aims at explaining what is happening in the real music, not at replacing it. Besides, I never saw the letters T, S, or D in real music either: these too belong to analytic reduction.

I think I will stop here, because our "discussion" turns to monologues, and I see nothing of interest that could be added, especially if you don't try to hear what I say.


Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 11/03/2013 13:35, Ildar Khannanov a écrit :

Dear Nicolas,
thank you for this clarification. I enjoy reading Rameau in the original. It dawned at me that he had a stronger point than Schenker imagined. By the way, Rameau does not seem to use the adjectives "real"  and "abstract." Apparently, it is your evaluation, from Schenkerian standpoint. In Rameau's terms, basso fondamentale is REAL, and singing bass is common, but not true.
Yes, I know, that Fetis and some other French teachers avoided Rameau's terminology. There must have been some political reasons for that.  Well, at the same time, Fetis aknowledged the profound contribution of Rameau to theory of tonality, including his own theory. 
It is common (and I would say, vulgar) to treat non-chord tones as non-harmonic tones. This, however, does not eliminate my question: are there true non-HARMONIC tones? What is the reason to treat them as non-HARMONIC? Perhaps, this is my fantasy, but the question remains open, because, if to reverse Schenker's argument, one can say that even the smallest "embellishment" note in classical style bears tonal-harmonic function (either T, or S, or D).

In addition, to your response to Dimitar, I do not think that T-S-D-T is an elaboration of tonic. There is no such thing as "tonic" before T-S-D-T plays out. It is clearly seen in modulation: we have not modulated until the full functional circle T-S-D-T in a new key has sounded. The T-S-D-T is the mainframe component of harmonic progression. It can be reduced only on paper, in ABSTRACT graphic analysis, but not in real living music.
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
Solfeggio7 at yahoo.com 
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