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Thread: Is there a name for this Medieval/Renaissance cadence?

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    Senior Member Gallus's Avatar
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    Default Is there a name for this Medieval/Renaissance cadence?

    e.g. starting at 23 seconds in this video:



    It's so ubiquitous in Medieval and Renaissance music that it practically defines the sound of the period for me, but I've never known its name before. Is there any musicological reason why it was so pervasive in early music?

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    I don't have the notated music, but: It's a standard cadence formula in Dorian mode (These singers seem to be singing it a whole step higher than what I'm guessing is the notated pitch, putting the cadence on E instead of D?). I'm not sure I'm getting the notes on the right beats, but here is the cadence you singled out notated in Dorian mode:

    Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 3.06.21 PM.png

    The reason it's ubiquitous is its simplicity and elegance. It was standard in this era to have cadences on perfect intervals, either an octave, as in this case, or an octave plus a fifth. The major 6th (E-C#) resolving outward to an octave we see in the Ockeghem example, is simply the most obvious and smoothest of the limited options available given the constraints of the then current principles of voice-leading and having to end on an octave. The suspension toward the end (the D sustained over the E) is what makes it elegant, by putting the voices rhythmically out of step and adding a bit of dissonance before the resolution. I don't know any specific name for it off hand — it's just the most standard cadence.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; May-19-2019 at 20:56.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Isn't it remarkable how such a simple contrapuntal procedure can endure for hundreds of years and still be moving. I'm not sure there is a name for it either Edward, other than the dry description of the suspension itself as a 7-6 although my ears can't help but put the dominant in to make it a subliminal 4-3 at times. I do prefer the scrunchier maj7-6 though in early vocal music...gets me every time.
    Last edited by mikeh375; May-19-2019 at 21:07.

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    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    I don't have the notated music, but: It's a standard cadence formula in Dorian mode (These singers seem to be singing it a whole step higher than what I'm guessing is the notated pitch, putting the cadence on E instead of D?). I'm not sure I'm getting the notes on the right beats, but here is the cadence you singled out notated in Dorian mode:

    Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 3.06.21 PM.png

    The reason it's ubiquitous is its simplicity and elegance. It was standard in this era to have cadences on perfect intervals, either an octave, as in this case, or an octave plus a fifth. The major 6th (E-C#) resolving outward to an octave we see in the Ockeghem example, is simply the most obvious and smoothest of the limited options available given the constraints of the then current principles of voice-leading and having to end on an octave. The suspension toward the end (the D sustained over the E) is what makes it elegant, by putting the voices rhythmically out of step and adding a bit of dissonance before the resolution. I don't know any specific name for it off hand — it's just the most standard cadence.
    Yes, the singers are a tone higher than the Dorian pitch notated by EdwardBast.
    I also didn't think there was a particular term for this ubiquitous cadential treatment, and a quick check in my old textbook (Polyphonic Composition, Owen Swindale, OUP 1962) confirms it.
    To quote Swindale (p. 19): [The] use of dissonant syncopations or suspensions may be observed at cadence points. These are [...] an invariable part of the [...] cadence.

    And later (p. 42): The cadence almost invariably makes use of a suspension; as Thomas Morley says, "There is no coming to a close without a discord, and that most commonly a seventh bound in with your sixth as your plainsong descendeth".

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Love the Morely quote. ^ ^ ^

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    ^ ^ ^ Morley

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    Senior Member Gallus's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. Interesting stuff

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