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    A new Publication on the Cadential Six-Four

    Dear Colleagues, 

    It is my pleasure to announce the publication of my article "Functional Nature of the Cadential Six-Four" (Musicological Annual LII/1, 2016). It is the fruit of many years of research, teaching, discussions, and practical music making. The paper is unorthodox and it challenges the conventional view of the cadential six-four chord; I promote the idea that it is not a mere dominant with two accented non-chord tones, but a unique bi-functional chord where a conflict between tonic and dominant is manifest. This concept allows the explanation of all possible appearances of the chord in question and clarifies various cases in which the structural equality of the Cad.6/4 with the tonic triad is explored musically, e.g. when non-chord tones and altered chords resolve into Cad.6/4 as if they resolve into a tonic.

    The cadential six-four as a temporary point of resolution is a new concept that has not been explored much in our theoretical musicology. Besides, I revisit the perfect fourth as an interval and argue that it is a true consonance which can create the impression of a simulated or feigned dissonance under certain circumstances. Among other situations, I also compare a true dominant with suspensions to the cadential six-four and draw the conclusion that the former is always a self-contained function which is capable of producing an authentic resolution without handling the suspensions prior to connecting the tonic, while the latter always needs a true dominant between itself and the tonic - this is why there is no such an "authentic cadence" as Cad.6/4 - Tonic. Last but not least, I review the weak types of six-four chords and bring up an intriguing case of "fusion" between cadential six-four and accented passing six-four.

    If some of you are interested in this matter and the six-four chords in general, please contact me personally, and I could possibly forward them the PDF file for their own reference.


    Thank you for your attention. Best regards,


    Dr. Dimitar Ninov

    School of Music

    Texas State University, San Marcos




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    • 5 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • Congradulations Dr. Dimitar, I look forward to reading your work.  I hope this isn't off topic, but here's one of my favorite examples of the 6/4 chord in a modern usage - nothing very profound mind you.  A pop song "Man On The Moon" (by REM) starts with two parallel 6/4 chords on C to D.  [GCEGCE - ADF#GDE] - guitar chords.  The second chord has dissonance as a result of the chord shape played on the guitar which starts from the C6/4 shape and move up two frets creating non chord tones G and E as open strings.  

    • Hello, Mr. Farley, and thank you for your comments. I listened to the song and I heard two chords in root position in the opening; the bass guitar clearly plays C, C, G, A and then D, D, A, B on the two chaning chords C and D (7), respectively. Maybe you have in mind the guitar fingerings which result in two parallel 6/4 chords, but this internal voicing does not matter in the overall sound of acoustically clear root position sonorities as decided by the bass. If you wanted me to forward my paper to you, please, write to me personally at dn16@txstate.edu or provide me with your personal email on this discussion thread. Thank you, and best regards!

    • Thanks for your response Dr. Ninov.  You are correct that the bass part is playing the roots and I understand that function harmonically.  However, the guitar part is playing two parallel 6/4 chord inversions (even if harminizations) and further outlined by the slide guitar riff entering in bar 5 .  The guitar chords do not have the same impact in root position as they do with the GC - AD inversions (and why I am identifying them as two parallel 6/4 chord shapes).  So - [GC GC octave up CE CE below GC]  and [AD AD octave up DF#  DF#  below AD].  Guitar players might refer to inversions as shapes with harmonic significance (or at least I do!).  While not functioning as a 6/4 chord in terms of the Common Practice period with the 5th degree in the bass voice, I hope my example at least suggests another variation of the 6/4 chord shape used in a modern albeit pop music context.  I would also add that in modern studio recording with layers of tracks it is not always easy to hear specific voicings.  I've always heard this example as two parallel 6/4 inversions in the guitar part which give the song a particular character and identity.   


      Carson Farley

    • Giorgio Sanguinetti and I have written an article on Verdi's 6/4s and "la parola scenica", which is forthcoming from Music Theory and Analysis: International Journal of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory. (2016)

    • Dear Ms. Burton,


      Excellent! Yesterday I emailed my paper to Giorgio with whom we got officially acquainted in Leuven two years ago, and then we met again in Moscow in 2015, where we had a heated debate on Schenkeian theory and a friendly dinner afterwards. Even though Giorgio's vision on K6/4 differs fundamentally from mine, I wholeheartedly wish you both the best of success with your publication , and I cannot wait to read it!