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More on Cadence

Dear Colleagues,

Some fellow theorists and composers contacted me privately about my article "Interior Cadences in the Sentence of Schoenberg" (link provided in my previous discussion with the same tilte) implying that that "it couldn’t be on a more important topic". This stimulated me to emphasize a few important things about cadencs in general, as follows:

The presence or absence of a cadence is not determined by the bass position of the last two chords in a harmonic progression, but by the functional interaction between the chords at the end of a musical gesture. The bass may enhance or diminish the effect of a cadence.

Therefore, instead of staring anxiously at the last two bass notes of a given harmonic progression in an attempt to recognize or deny a cadence, the analyst had better listen to the interaction among harmonies and other elements of texture as they shape a musical idea into a state of relative or absolute conclusion.

The beauty of cadence lies in its nuances of strength. The elimination of these nuances practically kills the concept of cadence, leaving the analyst with no choice but to call “a cadence” only the root position authentic closure. This approach drains music analysis of color and diversity, and makes it gray, monotonous, highly predictable, and uniform. I feel sorry for all those students who are taught harmony and musical form in this manner. For them, all the variety of cadential nuances, all the colorful palette of cadential formulas will remain hidden if not forbidden, along with the opportunity to make music analysis more flexible and more open to real music.

Thank you. I welcome any kinds of comments on the above reflections.

With best wishes,

 

Dimitar Ninov

Texas State University

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