[Smt-talk] "inversions"

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be
Thu Mar 20 00:39:18 PDT 2014

Yes, Donna, I know. Writing in four clefs was indeed standard in the 
Paris Conservatoire and so did we in Brussels. [I may admit now that we 
usually wrote on a grand staff (piano staves) and copied in four clefs 
before going to class.] Boulanger's teaching of harmony appears in many 
ways to have duplicated that of the Paris Conservatoire.

The question of the distribution of the voices between the hands (and 
the staves) also is of some importance for the "first reduction"in the 
teaching of Schenkerian analysis. As you certainly know, Forte & Gilbert 
usually chose for a choral-style writing in what they called "rhythmic 
notation", two voices on each of the two staves and in each of the two 
hands. Cadwallader & Gagné, on the contrary, advocate a continuo-style 
writing, three voices in the upper staff and in the right hand; they 
oddly call it the "imaginary continuo".
     In my class in the Sorbonne, I privileged choral style, while my 
younger colleague Luciane Beduschi advocated continuo style. We 
therefore decided to shortly discuss the matter and leave it open in the 
written text of our course. We show for instance that while the modern 
Breitkopf edition of Bach's chorales is in "choral style" notation (it 
defines the style, as a matter of fact), the original Birnstiel edition 
of 1765 evidenced some hesitation between the two, writing at times tree 
parts in the upper staff (in C1 clef, which made it easier). Czerny's 
rewriting of Chopin's Étude op. 10 n. 1 in his /School of Practical 
Composition/ of 1848 is closer to the continuo style, but probably 
because he keeps the distribution of the original, with the bass in 
octaves in the left hand. (See also Kofi Agawu in /Music Analysis/ 8/3.)

Continuo writing places the tenor in a more visible position. Yet it 
seems to me an aberration to consider it of any importance for the 
inversion of the chord. As you say, well written upper lines can be 
inverted. Yet the Parisian practice of the /chant donné/ (soprano given) 
prevented us to do so at least for the upper part.

Nicolas Meeùs

Le 20/03/2014 03:50, Donna Doyle a écrit :
> Nicolas, this disposition is normal for "keyboard" style (often used 
> in American keyboard harmony classes-- something to which I alluded in 
> my remarks). See, for ex Aldwell/Schachter, pp 97-8 (4th ed). As I 
> also said,
> Boulanger urged her students to play two voices per hand, not only to 
> create a more open texture, but also to foster contrapuntal 
> thinking/hearing. She insisted that harmony exercises be written in 
> and played from four clefs (three C and one F), so that each voice 
> becomes a line in its proper register. Of course, the soprano and bass 
> voices are the most important/noticeable. But often the three upper 
> lines, if well written, can be inverted.
> Donna Doyle

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