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Thread: Explanation of False Endings

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    Default Explanation of False Endings

    I know hardly anything about music theory, so, sorry if this is an elementary concept.

    Someone on YouTube mentioned that a piece of music had a lot of false endings. So this is when the music sounds like it is going to end but doesn't? I don't hear it. Could someone explain exactly what this is and maybe give examples?

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    It's hard for me to imagine a piece that has a lot of false endings, though I'm not sure exactly what's meant by that. If it means what you suggest (as good a guess as any), an example might be the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony, which rather notoriously tricks audiences into starting to applaud before the final statement of its big tune. A subtler example could be the finale of Beethoven's 5th, which might be heard as induging in a cumulative series of near-endings.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Nov-24-2020 at 05:46.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    It's hard for me to imagine a piece that has a lot of false endings, though I'm not sure exactly what's meant by that. If it means what you suggest (as good a guess as any), an example might be the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony, which rather notoriously tricks audiences into starting to applaud before the final statement of its big tune. A subtler example could be the finale of Beethoven's 5th, which might be heard as induging in a cumulative series of near-endings.
    OK, those examples make sense to me, but I'm not sure if that fits what this person was talking about.

    The comment is on this, by the way (only 5 comments): https://youtu.be/4HM3e5scfDg

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I see the comment. It doesn't convey anything to me, unfortunately. Certainly nothing of a technical or theoretical nature.

    That tenor is awful, by the way.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Nov-24-2020 at 06:49.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I see the comment. It doesn't convey anything to me, unfortunately. Certainly nothing of a technical or theoretical nature.

    That tenor is awful, by the way.
    Yeah, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I don't really hear anything there that sounds like it's about to end but doesn't.

    Agreed, that tenor was terrible, one of the worst I've heard. I had to stop listening. Surprisingly, elsewhere on YouTube people were saying he was really great. All I hear is bad pitch and wobble, wobble, wobble!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I see the comment. It doesn't convey anything to me, unfortunately. Certainly nothing of a technical or theoretical nature.

    That tenor is awful, by the way.
    Gertrude Grob-Prandl & Hans Beirer-"Geliebter, sag, wo weilt dein Sinn", Tannhäuser Duet Act I


    Thanks. I thought maybe it was just me.

    What a beautiful introduction though. Seems to be a rather old mono recording. I don't know when the recording was made, but Beirer was born in 1911, if that's any indication.

    It's singers like this that kept me away from opera for decades.

    And I'm not going to sit through 25 minutes of tenor caterwauling just to listen for the "false endings".

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    Is this anything relevant? I got lost once he started talking about all the chords.


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    Quote Originally Posted by pianozach View Post
    Gertrude Grob-Prandl & Hans Beirer-"Geliebter, sag, wo weilt dein Sinn", Tannhäuser Duet Act I


    Thanks. I thought maybe it was just me.

    What a beautiful introduction though. Seems to be a rather old mono recording. I don't know when the recording was made, but Beirer was born in 1911, if that's any indication.

    It's singers like this that kept me away from opera for decades.

    And I'm not going to sit through 25 minutes of tenor caterwauling just to listen for the "false endings".
    The description says it's from 1971. Maybe that's why.

    He's in another performance from 1963 on YouTube. He's marginally better there but still pretty bad.
    Last edited by adriesba; Nov-24-2020 at 07:53.

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    Quote Originally Posted by adriesba View Post
    Is this anything relevant? I got lost once he started talking about all the chords.

    Ah. The proper name for what this fellow is demonstrating is "deceptive cadence." Maybe popular musicians call such cadences "false endings" (possibly because the forms in popular music are generally simple and there's not much occasion for a deceptive cadence mid-piece), but deceptive cadences are quite common in classical music where the end of the piece is nowhere in sight. Interesting that the comment on YouTube applies to a bit from Tannhauser, since deceptive cadences are one of Wagner's basic tools for articulating internal forms, getting to a new key, and keeping the music going while avoiding the feeling of separate "numbers" in his operas.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Nov-24-2020 at 08:03.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Ah. The proper name for what this fellow is demonstrating is "deceptive cadence." Maybe popular musicians call such cadences "false endings" (possibly because the forms in popular music are generally simple and there's not much occasion for a deceptive cadence mid-piece), but deceptive cadences are quite common in classical music where the end of the piece is nowhere in sight. Interesting that the comment on YouTube applies to a bit from Tannhauser, since deceptive cadences are one of Wagner's basic tools for articulating internal forms, getting to a new key, and keeping the music going while avoiding the feeling of separate "numbers" in his operas.
    Is an example of this the way "O, du, mein holder Abendstern" ends, meaning, instead of ending on the note expected like it would if performed by itself in a recital, it ends on the more unsettling note that makes the transition into Tannhäuser's appearance?
    Last edited by adriesba; Nov-24-2020 at 08:31.

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    Quote Originally Posted by adriesba View Post
    Is an example of this the way "O, du, mein holder Abendstern" ends, meaning, instead of ending on the note expected like it would if performed by itself in a recital, it ends on the more unsettling note that makes the transition into Tannhäuser's appearance?
    Yes indeed. A very Wagnerian move! Maybe the most dramatic deceptive cadence in his work is the terrifying ending of the love duet in Tristan, which is heading inexorably toward resolution on a major triad but ends on a diminished one with a dissonance added for good measure. Of course the same music gets resolved at the end of the opera.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Yes indeed. A very Wagnerian move! Maybe the most dramatic deceptive cadence in his work is the terrifying ending of the love duet in Tristan, which is heading inexorably toward resolution on a major triad but ends on a diminished one with a dissonance added for good measure. Of course the same music gets resolved at the end of the opera.
    Ah yes, this makes sense to me now!

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    What about if you have a cadence (authentic or otherwise) at the end of the song, but you add a few chords after the cadence so the song doesn't end on the tonic? For example, I invented a C major song on the guitar, which had a cadence in the end, but after the cadence in C major, I thought it sounded good to have an (incomplete) E minor dominant 7th chord! (I guess you can't call this an irregular cadence, since there already was a real cadence.)
    Last edited by Gargamel; Dec-08-2020 at 02:13.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gargamel View Post
    What about if you have a cadence (authentic or otherwise) at the end of the song, but you add a few chords after the cadence so the song doesn't end on the tonic? For example, I invented a C major song on the guitar, which had a cadence in the end, but after the cadence in C major, I thought it sounded good to have an (incomplete) E minor dominant 7th chord! (I guess you can't call this an irregular cadence, since there already was a real cadence.)
    I don't know what to call it because there is no such thing as an "E minor dominant 7th chord." Do you mean an incomplete dominant 7th chord in the key of E minor (B, D#, A)?

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