6

I'm reading a functional harmony textbook and found the notation in the following passage confusing:

Consecutive VI and VII degrees in melody are harmonised with chords IV-VII6 (in minor: IVm-VII6) and consecutive VII and VI degrees with chords III-IV (in minor: IIIn-IV). When the upper tetrachord before a cesura is harmonised with chords I IIIn IV Vv it is called a Phrygian cadence.

(The quote feels off because the textbook is not in English. Please excuse the awkward translation.)

What is the meaning of those superscripts in IVm, IIIn and Vv? I first saw IVm and assumed that the m just stresses that it is a minor chord. However, this textbook never used that notation before when dealing with II and VI chords which, in major key, are minor chords.

Then I saw IIIn and assumed that m and n stand for melodic and natural and indicate how the scale degrees have to be altered. I assumed that IVm indicates a major chord on IV degree (raise the VI degree) and IIIn indicates a major chord on III degree (do not raise the VII degree to avoid an augmented chord).

Then I saw Vv and was thoroughly confused. I don't have any guesses as to what this superscript might stand for.

And what does he mean by upper tetrachord being harmonised with I IIIn IV Vv? I know that the upper tetrachord consists of degrees V, VI, VII and I, but still have trouble understanding the meaning of the whole sentence.

  • Are there footnotes anywhere, especially ones labelled with the letters m, n, and/or v? – Dekkadeci Jul 10 at 8:03
  • No, there are no footnotes on that page or anywhere in the chapter. – Liisi Jul 10 at 8:25
  • It may help to cite the textbook. But, it really should provide an explanation somewhere, introduction, appendix, footnotes, etc. – Michael Curtis Jul 10 at 12:44
  • 1
    The author is Leo Semlek and the title is "Klassikalise harmoonia lühiõpik" ["A Short Textbook of Classical Harmony"]. I did not cite it in the post because I assume that, unless someone reading my post happens to live in Estonia, they are unlikely to have access to that book anyways. – Liisi Jul 10 at 13:04
  • About the explanation of notation - I've read from the beginning, trying to not skip any text, and I've found no definition of this notation, only another instance of its use. There's an exercise where VII_7^h is written under a chord. This seems to support my (uninformed) guess that n stands for natural, h for harmonic and m for melodic. That would still leave open what that v in V^v stands for. In abbreviation list, it's told that h=harmonic, m=melodic, n=natural, but that might refer to abbreviations in text? – Liisi Jul 10 at 13:10
2

And what does he mean by upper tetrachord being harmonised with I IIIn IV Vv? I know that the upper tetrachord consists of degrees V, VI, VII and I, but...

I will switch to using a circumflex ^ for scale degree instead of Roman numerals.

The upper tetrachord ascending is ^5 ^6 ^7 ^1, however Semlek apparently is not mentioning that a Phrygian cadence is a descending bass motion!

We really need the upper tetrachord descending as ^1 ^7 ^6 ^5.

There are apparently differences in Roman numeral analysis between the United State (where I am) and Estonia. So I explain what I think these symbols mean.

Semlek gives the harmonization for that descending tetrachord as I IIIn IV Vv. (The n and v are supposed to be superscript, but I don't know how to do it in this post, sorry.) Apparently the n mean 'natural minor' or in practical terms no accidentals altering tone from the key signature. Based on normal minor key harmonic practice I guess that v mean use the raised leading tone with the dominant chord, because normally a Phrygian cadence would end on a dominant with a raised leading tone. Semlek doesn't use figure bass numbers on his Roman numerals, because he provides a bass line which allows us to understand the chord intervals and what inversions are used.

In the Roman numeral system I'm used to Semlek's harmony would be this...

i III6/4 iv6 V

In notation...

enter image description here

I'm used to the ^7 being harmonized with a v6 minor dominant, like this...

enter image description here

...but that's only a stylistic detail.

I think the important things to understand are:

  • the Phrygian cadence would involve a descending bass line involving the upper tetrachord.
  • the bass line will be all unaltered tones of the key signature, in other words the lowered scale degrees ^6 and ^7.
  • the cesura on the dominant chord will use the raised leading tone.
  • the harmony highlights the flexible treatment of the ^7 scale degree, being lowered in one chord, but raised in another.
  • the defining character of a Phrygian cadence is the descending half step motion in the bass from the lowered ^6 degree to ^5 in minor mode which is analogous to ^2 ^1 in the Phrygian mode.
  • I tried adding superscripts to your post, but my trick of adding html tags doesn't work inside backquotes. :( – luser droog Jul 10 at 22:26
1

I'll take a guess based on your explanations. I think that your comment is correct about h,m,n in that as a chord superscript, the author means the chord build on the Roman Numeraled degree using the h or m or n scale. (Any noun may be verbed.)

Next guess with no evidence, Vv may be the II chord; the major chord (or seventh) build on scale degree 2 and acting as secondary dominant to the V chord. (Of course, I may be wrong.)

[Editorial: I don't like this notation very much as it's easier, in my opinion, to treat the minor mode as a single entity. Composers (classical anyway) do that. Separating the melodic, harmonic, and natural minor scales, to me, is over analyzing (except in jazz where it's a compositional technique) as the same piece often has all three scale patterns used together. /RANT MODE/=OFF]

  • I agree with your rant about minor key harmony. I also don't like the mixture of Roman numerals for scale degrees and chords at the same time. A circumflex can be used for scale degrees like ^6 ^7. – Michael Curtis Jul 10 at 15:39
  • According to dictionary.onmusic.org/terms/2586-phrygian_cadence, a Phrygian cadence ends with the iv6-V chord progression, so your assumption that that the v superscript indicates a secondary dominant is likely wrong. – Dekkadeci Jul 10 at 16:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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