6

I found this embellished suspension in C minor:

descent followed by ascent

The notes between S and R embellish the dissonant S. You can see that the leading tone 7 is raised in both descending and ascending directions, as well as 6 is raised. This is a descent followed by an ascent. It looks weird that the leading tone is raised so early – in the descent – already, carrying the accidental over to the ascending leading tone because the measure didn't end yet. I tried it out myself.

A test in A minor:

3 2 1 7 6 7 1 – Sounds good, but the pull from 7 to 1 is missing

3 2 1 7 6 #7 1 – With raised LT the Pull to tonic is better, but makes 6 sound totally out of place

3 2 1 7 #6 #7 1 – With raised 6 the augmented second is fixed, but disturbs the descent

3 2 1 #7 #6 #7 1 – Sound fixed, yet unfamiliar, with LT also raised when descending

Two questions are now:

  1. In the situation of a descent followed by an ascent, what does one raise?
  2. Is this choice of raising somehow made by chromaticism in order to intensify the dissonance of the suspension?

3 Answers 3

3

It looks weird that the leading tone is raised so early – in the descent...

There is nothing weird about it. This passage is totally normal.

The mistake you are making is common, thinking the sixth and seventh scale degrees in minor are lowered for all descending lines and raised for all ascending lines, and that melodic lines will somehow always use those degrees in discrete ascending or descending fashion.

More that the direction of the line, the prevailing harmony is what determines the raised or lowered tones. This passage the B and A are part of a dominant chord. The B natural is the raised form of the seventh degree to form a proper dominant with a leading tone. The A is raised so the neighbor motion with B is a whole step rather than an augmented second.

The largeness of an augmented second is considered awkward in some contexts, like a neighbor motion, in other contexts it isn't a problem. You can find plenty a descending harmonic minor scales with the augmented second, over dominant chords. Suffice to say it isn't a matter of simply direction, it's a matter of the harmony and the overall line.

The same treatment of the sixth scale degree in minor can be seen with a neighbor motion from the fifth to the sixth. While the neighbor motion from the leading tone uses the raised sixth, the neighbor motion from the fifth uses the lowered sixth. The former is to avoid an augmented second, the later to preserve the minor sixth quality in the minor mode.

This kind of neighbor motion is the perfect example to illustrate why direction is not the primary issue regarding the sixth and seventh degrees in minor. Such neighbor motions are simultaneously both ascending and descending. In the example passage the A occurs only once! There is no way to apply the mistaken ascending/descending rule. How could you apply a lowered sixth for the descent and a raised sixth for the ascent when there is only one sixth played? You can't, and the raised/lowered treatment is decided by factors other than direction.

1
  • Wow, thank you so much!
    – Mozartovic
    Jan 22 at 11:14
3

Although the pitches initially move downward, this isn't a descending scale in the sense of a melodic passage. That is, the idea behind melodic minor of creating smooth passages applies to melodies but not to ornaments, which are considered "extra" and not part of the melody itself.

Instead, there are two ways to consider this:

  1. It's the leading tone that is being embellished, so it's necessary to use the raised 6. That is, the actual melody is C-B-C, with the ornament only applying within the context of B.
  2. The chord being embellished — the V chord — can be thought of as a (very!) brief modulation, so the embellishment would be in that key; i.e. G major.
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  • Great, clear now. But what if this situation occurs in a reasonable melody, not being an ornamentation?
    – Mozartovic
    Jan 17 at 19:39
  • @Mozartovic That's a good question. My initial thought is that the answer would change depending on the specific context.
    – Aaron
    Jan 17 at 19:56
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This is just the clausula i-ii-V-i. The lead tone B is advanced already above ii and A (6) is just a changing tone, and not a descending scale (agreeing with Aaron.)

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  • 1
    I don't think you mean "clausula" (a newly composed descant over an existing organum). Maybe "cadence" or "clause"?
    – Aaron
    Jan 17 at 19:52
  • clausula noun 1. The conclusion of a passage; cadence. 2. The close or end of a historical period; clause. Source: wordnik.com/words/clausula
    – Mozartovic
    Jan 17 at 20:03
  • @Mozartovic That helps. I see why I was confused — I wasn't familiar with its Latin meaning. But the link you included gives enough examples to clarify its use in Latin phrases.
    – Aaron
    Jan 17 at 23:24
  • Glad it helped.
    – Mozartovic
    Jan 18 at 15:05

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