Dissertation Diary 2015-10-01

As promised, more words! I did some touch up edits of chapter 3 on Tuesday, all that remains is some layout/citation/post-processing sort of stuff, hopefully. Chapter 3 and the second half of chapter 2 are going to my advisor today. I spent some of Tuesday and some of today working on the second half of chapter 2. This section has been partially fleshed out for awhile, but the prose has been not-so-good. Hopefully it’s a lot closer now. For the rest of today, I need to get cracking on my dwindling reading list. Next week I hope to be able to post a SFD of the first section of chapter 2 – history bits. If I stay on schedule, I’ll have a complete draft of chapter 2 by midterm, and a good draft of chapter 2 by the end of the quarter.

Here’s the section on recent functional alternatives to RNs (picture examples didn’t transfer, and not all citations are good yet):


Subsection: Ian Quinn

One prominent, recent teaching method that discards Roman numerals has been designed by Ian Quinn. He voices a similar frustration to my own: “Of course, skilled and knowledgeable instructors are aware of all these pitfalls, and we navigate our students around them almost without a second thought. I have been moved … to wonder what would happen if we didn’t cause these problems in the first place.”[1] This comes from the presentation of his method at the 2005 meeting for the Society for Music Theory, and he also sent me the 2008 version of his course materials.[2] Quinn uses what he calls functional-bass symbols,[3] which focuses on the bass motion and the functional drive of harmonies.

The example below is from Quinn’s class notes,[4] showing how function and bass scale degree are used to indicate chords. A progression of I-V 6/4-I6 is analyzed as T1-D2-T3. The lower case letter to the right of labels indicates the hand position of the right hand in a keyboard style texture. Parentheses show how long the prolongation lasts.

A similar progression such as I – viiº6 – I6 would have the same T1 D2 T3 analysis but with a different hand position letter, highlighting the connection between two similarly functioning chords that look quite different when analyzed with Roman numerals.

Throughout the teaching packet, there is a strong emphasis on fixed and variable scale degrees – stable pitches such as do and so versus mode defining ones like mi/me or la/le, and contexts in which notes act as harmony defining notes (functional triggers – having do in a chord strongly suggests tonic)[5] as opposed to as tendency tones (functional dissonances – pitches which create dissonances in a function, like fa to ti in a D7).[6] Different types of prolongations of functions and harmonies are explored and defined by their bass contours.[7] Roman numerals are used only to indicate modulations and key areas.[8]

The primary difference between Quinn’s functional-bass symbols and my incarnation of Functional Analysis is Quinn’s focus on the exclusive preeminence of the bass. If there were a spectrum from slice-by-slice triad thinking on one end over to purely linear counterpoint thinking on the other, Quinn’s functional-bass symbols lie nearer to the purely linear end of the spectrum than Functional Analysis. While my Functional Analysis is best used linearly; triadic differences, vertical ideas, and more independent chords are also encouraged – which is not to say such details are not possible with functional-bass symbols, only that they are less apparent or highlighted. This also shows in the use of figured bass short-hands rather than specifying upper voice pitches – the linear motion of the function is emphasized more than the individual pitch content of the chord.

While there are strong benefits to Quinn’s system, it is designed from the perspective of part-writing and composing. I have always come at Functional Analysis from an analytical perspective. I feel that we should not completely abandon triads for only functions, but have designed my approach in hopes of showing both, and emphasizing the most currently relevant aspect at any given time, allowing for a flexibility between highlighting linear and horizontal ideas.

Subsection: Charles Smith

Another example of functional-bass analysis shows up at the University of Buffalo with Charles J Smith, in an as-of-yet unpublished text book.[9] Developed separately and before Quinn’s method, Smith uses many different types of label (Chord letter names, Roman numerals, figured bass[10]) in conjunction to show different aspects of harmony. In introducing these different labels, he comments on their ability to show certain facets of a chord. These facets are shown below in a diagram borrowed from his book.[11] As he defines these labels, Roman numerals do not show inversion, because that is the figured bass in conjunction with the Roman numeral.

I would argue that Functional Analysis has some capability to show all seven of these chordal facets, by blending multiple ideas together. Obviously, a Functional Analysis label shows function and diatonic context, but the separated inversion and bass layers help show both bass and inversion, and separating the bass from the root of the chord by tying the root of the chord to the function shows the root separate from the bass, which neither Quinn nor Smith’s systems focus to show. Using lower case letters in minor keys provides modal association and quality.

Subheading: David Damschroder

Another author interested in doing Roman numerals in a non-standard way is David Damschroder. Much of his writing is about Schenkerian Analysis,[12] but in a recent book on Schubert,[13] Damschroder lays out a new methodolgy for using Roman numerals in a prolongational way, not unsimilar to how I conceive of layers in Functional Analysis.

Damschroder also advocates a big-picture first analytical lens saying “Though presented here in high-level formulation, Harmony in Schubert calls into question many time-honored conventions of lower-level analytical pedagogy. It is a manifesto for a top-to-bottom transformation in the way musicians think about harmony.”[14] While still using Roman numerals, Damschroder is more interested in large-scale voice-leading energies, and provides a system that includes inversions separated from bass pitch, the concept of chords missing roots, chords related by third (which also may be shown as 6ths replacing 5ths: “Some musicians regard II as no more than an offshoot of IV. Sometimes that viewpoint may prove instructive, as in the asserted 6 phase of IV5-6. In other contexts, however, II is derived directly from root 2.”[15]) Additionally, these concepts are dependent on where they occur: “Context determines function.”[16] This conception is largely based on the Schenkerian differentiation between chord and Stufe.

He prefers to show chromatic alteration of predominants rather than use applied dominants in most cases. Thinks of sequences as non-functional, using LIPs and linear operations quite frequently. Cadential 6/4 is V with I embellishing.

[1] Ian Quinn, script of “Harmonic Function without Primary Triads,” given at Society for Music Theory, Cambridge Nov. 11 2005, p.3.

[2] personal communication

[3] Ian Quinn, script of “Harmonic Function without Primary Triads,” given at Society for Music Theory, Cambridge Nov. 11 2005, p.3.

[4] Ian Quinn, “Class Notes for MUSI 210,” Yale, 2008, p. 22.

[5] Ian Quinn, “Class Notes for MUSI 210,” Yale, 2008, p. 27.

[6] Quinn, p. 28, 31-ff.

[7] page?

[8] Quinn, p.9.

[9] Via twitter and Brian Moseley, briancmoseley.com/mus106/ Thanks!

[10] Charles, J Smith, “Chapter 6: Harmonic Functions,” p 20, 24, 9.

[11] Smith, 59/35.

[12] Non-relevant articles?

[13] Harmony in Schubert, David Damschroder, Cambridge University Press 2010.

[14] Damschroder, ix.

[15] Damschroder, 15.

[16] Damschroder, 8.

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