[Smt-talk] Gender Terminology in Music Theory

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 30 05:21:21 PDT 2014

Dear Jay and the list,

I have been thinking about this question too. It is a very important and beautifully formulated one. If the answer to be found then another evidence of theory of form borrowing its terminology from theory of prosody will be revealed.

I can guess that the beautiful semantics of feminine and masculine endings entered music at the time of discovery of the period form in the second half of the 18th century. Approximately at that time the four-foot iamb has become most common verse structure. It is in this four-foot stanza the second line ends with feminine and the fourth line ends with masculine ending. By the way, contrary to the views expressed here on the list, the terms feminine and masculine rhyme are used commonly  in contemporary theory of prosody. Wikipedia does not hesitate to state that. And why do I have to be ashamed of the term feminine ending if nowadays nobody seemed to be ashamed of anything?

Best wishes,

Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
On Wednesday, April 30, 2014 7:59 AM, JAY RAHN <jayrahn at rogers.com> wrote:
In French versification theory ca. 1500, the end of a line is either feminine or masculine depending on whether the second last syllable or the last syllable is accented. In French, a grammatically masculine word might or might not refer to something that is semantically gendered masculine and a grammatically feminine word might or might not refer to something that is semantically gendered as feminine. 

In aristocratic chansons of the time, a cadence at the end of both kinds of line generally proceeds from a weaker to a stronger part of the measure . However, often in songs that are idiomatically most similar to subsequent chansons populaires (e.g., Faisons bonne chere), a line with a feminine ending proceeds from a stronger to a weaker part of the musical metre. 

Does anyone know whether, and if so, how and when, the phonological/prosodic terms were adopted to deal with musical metre and phrase structure?

Jay Rahn, York University       
On Tuesday, April 29, 2014 5:47:23 PM, Michael Morse <mwmorse at bell.net> wrote:
Like "sexist," the attributions "masculine" and "feminine" are ascriptive, not descriptive. Adjectives have no direct prescriptive power in reality, despite their undeniable if merely occasional affective influence; that matter was sorted out in 1324 by William of Ockham. Today, 1991 is every bit as much ancient history as 1324.
>MW Morse
>z. Zeit freier Kunstler
>> From: Jennifer.Bain at Dal.Ca
>> So to refer to a cadence that ends on a strong metric position as
>> masculine and one that ends on a weak metric position as feminine is not
>> sexist...? Didn't we sort this out in 1991?
>> Jennifer
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>Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org

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