[Smt-talk] Semitonal voice leading

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Thu May 16 10:24:26 PDT 2013

Dear Andrew and the List,
this is a chicken-and-the-egg question but you will have to choose one over another if you do not want to enter le cercle vicieux.
First of all, I am not familiar with the concept of "German augmented sixth chords." Normally, when one national tradition introduces a new term, another tradition is there to evaluate and, sometimes, to contest the innovation. That was the case for French an German traditions in the 18th and 19th centuries. The phrase "German chord" does not mean anything to me for this particular reason but in Dimitar's terms it is an altered Subdominant, and this explains everything. 
The Subdominant supertonic four-three with augmented sixth and raised root does not sound like the Dominant seventh chord. It is a common misconception. It sounds like Subdominant--nothing can hide its Subdominant origin.
Dominant seventh chord is not just any major-minor seventh chord. It is a Dominant seventh because it is related to Tonic this way. Besides Dominant seventh chord, a large group of other chords, with different voice leading obligations,  are related exactly this same way, as Dominants. The same applies to secondary Dominant seventh chords as they are related to local Tonics.
My point has been that Dominant seventh chord is such notwithstanding voice-leading conditions in which it is commonly employed. On the contrary, its quality (relation to Tonic) generates voice leading. Again, the horse should be placed ahead of the coach.
Counterpoint does not define the quality of intervals and chords; the intervals and chords do define the rules of counterpoint. 
The first species of counterpoint suggests that we should not move in parallel fifth. Let us replace the quality of the interval (if you think that contrapuntal context defines the quality of the interval). We should not move in parallel x. This statement loses its meaning  because it is exactly the quality of the interval, the P5, that defines the "rule of counterpoint" and not vice versa. And indeed, in history of music theory there were many attempts to characterize the phenomenal quality of the P5 as the determinant of this particular rule of counterpoint, including the theological explanation (the P5 represents God and its replication in adjacency would be a blasphemy).
Intervals, chords and their intrinsic qualities (functions) are mental products, the results of logic and abstract thinking. They accompany composition, performance and listening experience.
Best wishes,
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

--- On Tue, 5/14/13, Andrew Schartmann <andrew.schartmann at yale.edu> wrote:

From: Andrew Schartmann <andrew.schartmann at yale.edu>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Semitonal voice leading
To: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 4:31 PM


To unravel what you said, you're making the basic point that "rules" of counterpoint and harmony are style-based/context-based. I'm not sure anyone would argue with you, unless they're willing to posit music theory as a natural science, in which case they'd be wrong.


I want to make sure I fully understand what you're getting at when you say that "the question of function cannot be and should not be tied to the so-called voice leading context. The Dominant Seventh chord functions as Dominant with or without the resolution triad in sight." This is a tautology.

I assume, however, that you mean the following: a major-minor seventh chord functions as a dominant no matter where we find it. If you hold this to be true, I'm going to guess you haven't listened to much beyond classical music. And even if we stay within the classical repertoire, what do you make of German augmented sixth chords?

Best wishes,
Andrew Schartmann
Graduate Student
Yale University
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