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I have read many people claiming that this cadence is actually a disguised V-vi in the relative major. But as a pianist and composer I do not feel this way at all. For a concrete example, here is a simple random sample I just made up, ending with the cadence VII-i.

(C minor) C(lower) G G - - - F G (G minor) B flat - - - - - G F (A flat major) E flat - - C E flat F A flat G (G minor) G - - - - - G - (F minor) A flat C - - - - A flat - (C minor) G C - - (A flat major) - C(upper) A flat (B flat major) F - - - E flat - D - (C minor) C - - - - - - -

Is there any well-known composer who explicitly wrote about this VII-i cadence and considers it to be a final/perfect cadence in a minor key just like the perfect cadence V-I in a major key? To be clear, I want to know the historical perspective of this cadence of historic composers, especially if they too consider it final rather than "deceptive"... Any actual name and quote would be great, preferably along with a reference to where I can find said quote.

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    Downvoter, please explain what is wrong with my question, otherwise I can only ignore your vote.
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 15:01
  • Not the downvoter, but in general finding pieces/examples/external references is off topic. Depending on exactly what you are asking in the last sentence it could be viewed as one of those three. You can also see this reflected in the two answers which talk more about the progression in general then directly answering that question.
    – Dom
    Sep 1, 2022 at 15:43
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    @Dom: Wait, why is asking for references off-topic? That is not at all stated at the Help center! In fact, the help center says to "insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references"!
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 15:58
  • Just asking for external references is off-topic see: music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic. The reasoning is we don't want to just be a signpost to information, we want to be the source of it. Of course a good answer will have sources and references, but a good answer won't just be a source.
    – Dom
    Sep 1, 2022 at 16:10
  • @Dom: Well, that does not apply here. I'm asking for the name of any such composer and what he/she wrote, which are perfectly answerable on this site. Of course, having external references would be important so that I know people don't just make it up.
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 16:12

3 Answers 3

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This feels very (modern) modal to me. The cadence is very much at home in the harmonic style developed by composers starting in the late 19th century who sought to develop national characteristics in their classical compositions by incorporating elements taken from folk songs, many of which have lowered "leading tone." This led them to develop idioms where the seventh scale degree is not chromatically altered.

With this in mind, it's interesting that you chose the C Dorian key signature rather than C minor, especially since there are A flats in the piece but no A naturals.

It doesn't sound at all like V-vi in major, largely because the tonic pitch of the melody is clearly C rather than E flat. A classic deceptive cadence typically has a melodic cadence on ^1, which is of course the third of the vi chord.

In this modal idiom, VII-i certainly shares some similarity to V-i from a larger-scale formal point of view, but there are some obvious differences at the smaller scale, the most significant being the stepwise motion of the bass and the lack of a raised leading tone. Similar to the vii°-i cadence in common-practice harmony, which may be seen as V7-i with the root of the first chord omitted, the VII-i cadence can also be seen as v7-i with the root of the first chord omitted. All of these serve to harmonize the classic melodic cadence (descending in stepwise motion) because in each case the penultimate chord contains the second degree of the scale (for example, in C minor, D is contained in G, B°, Gm, and B♭).

This cadence is decidedly alien to common-practice harmony, however, whereas the "deceptive" V-vi cadence is, well, common. When "people claim" something about music theory, it's important to recognize that they may be talking about a particular period or style. Is it rock? Jazz (and, if so, from which decade)? Modern classical? Common practice (and, if so, which half of which century)? Renaissance? Approaching this cadence from each of these different perspectives will make it look somewhat different.

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  • Whoops sorry about that, I made a stupid mistake about the key signature. No wonder I was having to add accidentals all over. So embarrassing.
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 9:57
  • It would be nice if you know of any actually well-known composer who wrote about this. I get your point that "music theory" is strongly tied to a particular culture and/or style, and that's why I'm interested in actual writings on this cadence that seems to me very natural. I was surprised that the wikipedia page on cadences had such a big list of cadences but not this one.
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 10:04
  • By the way, I disagree that VII-i can be viewed as "v7-i with root omitted", because it gives a distinctly different feel to me. The VII-i feels clean and truly final, whereas v7-i feels a bit cluttered and non-final. I don't know if you have this same feeling; it may be subjective.
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 10:12
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    @user21820 Bach did it all the time -- until the mid 18th century it was very common to use Dorian key signatures. As to well known composers, I don't have time to look that up, but you might try the folk-song crowd, especially British (Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries) and Central/Eastern European (Bartok, Kodaly, perhaps some of the Russians). As to "with the root omitted," yes, it is distinctly different to omit the root, but the chords are functionally similar (because they have so many common tones and the voice leading is therefore nearly the same).
    – phoog
    Sep 1, 2022 at 10:21
  • Oh ok thanks for pointing me to the folk-song composers, and I'll see what I can find. I've never tried searching music literature before, so I was stumped when I couldn't find anything on this cadence (which I had used in my own compositions) via google. It didn't help that google returns a lot of results for "VII-I" (for major key), which I don't want.
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 10:30
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'Classical' harmony doesn't really embrace the ♭VII chord and doesn't include it in its lexicon of cadences. ♭VII can be hard to explain in function 'cycle of 5ths' terms (except when it's being 'IV of IV') and I don't think there's much point in trying to force in into that system. Just accept that in these Blues- and Mode-influenced days, ♭VII - note or chord - has attained 'honorary diatonic' status. It's a step below the tonic and leads well into the tonic, in both minor and major contexts.

I doubt you'll find a reputable opinion that ♭VII - I equates to a perfect cadence in a minor key, because V7 - I, a 'real' perfect cadence, is available to minor or major keys.

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    Nobody is trying to force anything into any system. Cadences aren't restricted to any one culture, so I was just asking for examples of composers who explicitly wrote about this cadence. That was my (only) question. By the way, my inquiry has really nothing to do with blues or "modal influence"; I find VII-i (in minor key) ok, but I really do not like ♭VII-I (in major key) at all.
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 13:36
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    Oh, people DO obsess on finding traditional ‘function’ in just about any chord progression! Just watch this forum for all the ‘why does this work’ queries.
    – Laurence
    Sep 1, 2022 at 14:50
  • Sure, many people do. I don't doubt that, but hey, that's why I asked for references and not just opinions!
    – user21820
    Sep 1, 2022 at 14:55
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    @user21820 I think what Laurence meant by "force" is that while your view is a cadence analyzed as C: ♭VII i a cadence on the tonic, the disguised V-vi perspective "forces" the tonic to something else, namely E♭ so that it analyzes to E♭: V vi. That makes a muddle of tonic and function. It's better to just accept it for what it is a modal cadence to a minor tonic. Some textbooks might classify it as a type of plagal cadence (Kostka/Payne.) Sep 1, 2022 at 20:00
  • @user21820, in Kostka/Payne, Tonal Harmony, they call a plagal cadence any non-dominant chord resolving to the tonic. IV I being the typical example, but ♭VII i would also fit the definition. That definition of their's isn't so commonly used, but "modal cadence" is pretty widely understood, even if it is a bit generic. Kostka/Payne are your academic reference, but endless numbers of folk/rock songs are the real world reference for this move as a final cadence. Sep 1, 2022 at 20:08
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VII-i is simply no cadence because cadence means falling a fifth.

That's why you won't find it mentioned or discussed by composers or other theorists. It is a progression in modal music coming from medieval church music and is used very often in film music, folk and pop songs and old and modern church music. It's not a cadence, just a common modal clausula in natural minor.

The same progression in relative major V-vi is called false cadence because we expect the fifthfall V-I and we are deceived, but the true cadence will be some measures later.

Edit:

I agree that the term candence is used in a broader way than the definiton in my answer above: all cadences like phrygian, catalanian, piccardie, and the plagal cadence are not fifth fall cadences. The simplest way of chord progression is: i-VII-VI-VII-I.

I'd suggest to call this the Aeolian Cadence.

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  • The English dictionary says that "cadence" means "a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase", and that is exactly how I am using the term. Also, terminology can never be a valid reason for why people would not discuss something... Whatever you want to call it (e.g. "clausula"), theorists who encounter it ought to discuss it and explain what they feel about it compared with the other typical cadences.
    – user21820
    Sep 3, 2022 at 8:42
  • By your logic, plagal cadences aren't cadences either, since with IV-I, the root rises a 5th (or falls a 4th) and nothing gets to fall a 5th.
    – Dekkadeci
    Sep 3, 2022 at 12:13
  • That's right! The plagal cadence falls a forth not a fifth. But VII-i rises a 2nd and no one will say it falls a minor 7th. Sep 3, 2022 at 21:48

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