What is the theoretical term for the voice-leading phenomenon whereby the note that a suspension is expected to resolve to appears in another voice on the same beat that the suspension begins? You can see a version of this in the final cadence of 'O nata lux' by Thomas Tallis, second to last bar, second to last beat; a suspended fourth in the top voice and the minor third of the chord in the tenor. Obviously, this is not a voice-leading error in this case and the suspension doesn't actually resolve on the minor third in the top voice. Regardless, I'm curious to know what this type of voice-leading is called as I can't find any information on it. Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


If you mean the setting of the word "corporis" in the last bar, that's an English cadence, and it was fairly common in English music of the 16th and 17th centuries - Wikipedia uses an example from another Tallis work. The distinguishing feature is that the raised and natural leading tones are used at the same time.

  • Except that it does seem to be common practice in this cadence. The example in Wikipedia, O sacrum convivium, also suspends the fourth. If it were a straight 4-3 suspension, then, yeah, doubling the leading tone would have have been a solecism. This would be true even if it weren't a suspension (i.e., the tonic wasn't suspended, but resolved to the leading tone immediately). The fact here, though, is that the cadence works with a split seventh, so there is no doubling, and the passing note E♭ in the tenor partially resolves the dissonance. (more...)
    – user16935
    Jun 15, 2015 at 18:36
  • It's a form of false or cross relation, which might be the translation of the term you're trying to remember. At any rate, this particular form of cross relation, this specific cadence, dates back to the start of Ars nova (Machaut), so I think the "rules" of Renaissance polyphony as actually practised allowed this. Renaissance music had a hardier sense of dissonance than most people realise.
    – user16935
    Jun 15, 2015 at 18:36
  • @Bridge The type of motion is called oblique and in this situation, no matter which way you slice it, in the context in which you describe, it is incorrect voice-leading. Now, I could tell you why Tallis used the "G" and how that particular situation arose, but as you said, you're aware of what's happening in the Tallis piece. Apart from setting up an English Cadence as Patrx2 pointed out, you simply don't move voices in that way without having a really good reason. Incidentally, Tallis had a really good reason. Jun 16, 2015 at 7:14
  • @jjmusicnotes, yeah, but "oblique" also covers a lot of ground that is isn't illicit. Speaking from point of view of function, we might call it an indirect anticipated resolution; "indirect" because the resolution is anticipated in another voice. Even so, there are forms of this that are entirely legal, notably 9-8 and 2-1 suspensions (which use precisely the voice framework you mention in your comment, @Bridge). The big problem isn't the oblique motion, nor the anticipated resolution, but what these do to subsequent voice leading in many cases.
    – user16935
    Jun 16, 2015 at 17:19
  • @Patrx2 We can postulate about what to call it, but I don't think that was the intention of the question. I thought your original answer was pretty straightforward. I disagree with some points; staying strict to Renaissance counterpoint, you can't move a voice upward into a dissonance unless it is on a weak beat and / or if it is a passing tone to another consonant tone. It is through this lens I made my comment about incorrect voice-leading. That said, I contend that Tallis made the best possible choice. Given all of the voice-leading possibilities, the "G" is least wrong of all outcomes. Jun 16, 2015 at 18:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.