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What drives V - I resolution?

Posted by jjjtttggg 
What drives V - I resolution?
April 17, 2017 02:08PM
I'm a lifelong guitar player & sometime piano player. I recently bought a new piano and playing it frequently has gotten me thinking about music theory anew... learning new things and questioning/re-learning/confirming things I knew or at least thought I knew.

I've come upon a really, really basic stumbling block... why does an authentic cadence work?

I totally get that for a Dominant 7th V to Tonic transition, it's the resolution of the tri-tone tension in the Dominant 7 that makes it work. But, even when there's no flatted 7th tone in the V chord, the transition to tonic still works as a resolution. It's still a cadence. The Dom 7 V makes the resolution stronger/more powerful, but my sense it's just amplifying something that's already their, not creating the effect from scratch.

Similarly, the predominant transition from ii or ii7 - V or V7 in a ii-V-I cadence works just fine with no tri-tone resolution. Here again in the right circumstance, sharping the third of ii7 makes a stronger effect, but the essential "down a fifth, down a fifth" resolution effect is there with or without the tritone(s).

Anybody have any ideas as to why this is the case? Why does a V - I transition, or ii - V, or any other "down a fifth" transition create a sense of resolution, even with a tritone involved?

Any and all insights appreciated...

-J
Re: What drives V - I resolution?
April 18, 2017 06:05AM
In the case of V-I, the 3rd of V is a leading note progressing to the root of I, plus there's a rising 4th (falling 5th) root movement from V - I. Root movements of a rising 4th/falling 5th are considered among the strongest in tonal music. So that's two strong motivators even without the tritone. Like you say, the dom 7th amplifies its tendency to resolve as it adds the tritone dissonance.

As for ii-V, there'sanother rising 4th/ falling 5th root movement - but no leading tone, unless, as you mentioned, you'sharp the 3rd, in which case, it's more correct to call it V/V instead of ii.
Re: What drives V - I resolution?
April 18, 2017 11:08PM
Quote
jjjtttggg
But, even when there's no flatted 7th tone in the V chord, the transition to tonic still works as a resolution. It's still a cadence. The Dom 7 V makes the resolution stronger/more powerful, but my sense it's just amplifying something that's already their, not creating the effect from scratch.

In a way, I think you've answered your own question here. Once you establish a key center - a tonal center - your ear is going to hear all of the notes in that key whether they are played or not. The dominant 7th is there even if you don't play it. So is the 3rd of the V chord. This is also why your ear will hear if a note is not in the key - like playing a secondary dominant in the ii, which them becomes a II7/V, not a V/V, although the idea is the same.

The tritone formed by the 4th and 7th notes forms the key center. This interval declares to your ear where the key center is. It declares that the tonic note owns the key - and it can lend it to the 6th if desired. When in the key of C Major, the F and B declare the key center. These notes can either by the 4th and 7th notes of the major key (C), or the 6th and 2nd notes of the relative minor key (Am). The function of the interval formed by
F and B is the same.

However, even if you haven't established any key center, your ear will try to create one the moment you sound a note or chord. And it probably depends a lot on the type of music you are most used to listening to. That leading tone, though, from the vii to the I, is so strong! You'll wake the dead if you don't resolve it! C=
Re: What drives V - I resolution?
April 19, 2017 07:14AM
Thanks the responses! I guess it's academic anyway. As a player it's enough to know that if I play that V - I transition, my listener and/or fellow musicians will experience a sense of resolution. Whether that's because the ear imagines the tritone even if it's not played or just a because root movement down a fifth/up a fourth is pleasing by some other physiological mechanism, is irrelevant for my purposes as a player, but as a thinker. It's stil a puzzle. I kinda like the implied tritone idea, but I'm not sure. G to C sounds like resolution when played all by itself, with nothing to tell the ear that's V - I of C and not I - IV of G. If I play it in context with tonal movements or even just a melody line containing a harmonically supported F#, and it suddenly sounds like I - IV. But if I just just walk up to a piano and play a first inversion G major triad into a root inversion C, I think 90+% of human ears will hear key of C, V - I. Whether there's a hard and fast/concrete explanation or not, I think that's interesting, and of course extremely useful!

Anyway thanks is for the comments, I'd enjoy further conversation if you have additional thoughts.

- J

PS, just as a point of clarification, I think Fret meant, by writing V/V, that secondary dominant nature of II7 - V in the root key can be thought of as "the V(7) of the V". So D7 - G - C is most precisely II7 - V - I, but can be thought of as V7 (of G, ie V7 of the five since we're in C, aka V7/V) to V (of C) to I. I've seen this nomenclature before. I like the descriptiveness of it in explaining secondary dominance, but personally I don't find the V5/V - V - I notation helpful. Makes me have to think two steps instead of just one with II7 - V - I.
Re: What drives V - I resolution?
April 19, 2017 07:33AM
Just re-read everything here, and sat at the piano for a few minutes. I think the leading tone third of V resolving to root of I may be the heart of why V - I works (as you both mentioned). Take it away, as in v / I, and without context at least the strong sense of resolution goes away. With context as in ii - V - I thoug it's very much still there, so I still think there's something more fundamental that makes "down a fifth" work so well.
Re: What drives V - I resolution?
April 19, 2017 09:40AM
I think the ear is a pretty phenomenal thing. It assumes a key center so quickly, and yet it can be deceived with great delight! Take most any blues song. Could be a minor blues or a major blues or both, but play a I7, IV7, and V7 - making them all dominant chords - and the ear will still try to find a key center out of that moving mark, and a sense of resolution, possibly based with what it is most familiar. Resolve the blues on a dominant I chord and you can walk away peacefully enough.

Modal songs are some of my favorites because they deceive my ear or leave it unsettled in just the right way. Many blues songs could be considered modal in this respect. Good fun! C=
Re: What drives V - I resolution?
April 19, 2017 04:28PM
An additional.reason could.be roughly at follows: taking the skip by single notes only, that is G to C, there would arguably stress the 5ths harmonics of C, creating an underlaying sort of melody (or pedal-like) line like G-G

Such an outcome would be satisfying by itself as far as it contributed to get a somewhat stable underlying harmony (or melody): that is keeping G at the second measure in G-G, instead of switching it into some other note.

So to speak, this type of rationale (related to Counterpoint) would have the advantage of enabling other movements between chords/degrees: for instance, Plagal Cadence IV-I. In this case the upward 5th skip would stress an underlying line like that of a kept mayor 6th, that is A, like A-A (evem if you wrote C as c-e-g only, and not c-e-g-a), between the two measures.

If that could be.the case, then you would have the harmonies of Perfect vs Plagal cadence based respectively a major 2nd appart from each other (that is, G vs A); which rendered great consequences (forward and backwards, harmonically speaking), etc.

Greetings



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/19/2017 04:35PM by Athair. (view changes)
Re: What drives V - I resolution?
April 19, 2017 11:07PM
jjjtttggg Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>
> PS, just as a point of clarification, I think Fret
> meant, by writing V/V, that secondary dominant
> nature of II7 - V in the root key can be thought
> of as "the V(7) of the V". So D7 - G - C is most
> precisely II7 - V - I, but can be thought of as V7
> (of G, ie V7 of the five since we're in C, aka
> V7/V) to V (of C) to I. I've seen this
> nomenclature before. I like the descriptiveness
> of it in explaining secondary dominance, but
> personally I don't find the V5/V - V - I notation
> helpful. Makes me have to think two steps instead
> of just one with II7 - V - I.

Yes, I meant V/V - 'Dominant of the Dominant' in relation to a II - V, not a II - V - I cadence. Context determines what's going on musically, and in a typical case of sharping the 3rd of ii, especially at cadence points, you create a so-called tonicising tendency of the next chord V. That necessarily means a weakening of the dominant effect of V and the tonic effect of I, which is exactly what's required when you want to briefly tonicise the dominant or if you want to modulate to the key of the dominant. In these cases, V/V is used because it lets you know that the tonicising effect is significant and the chord's function as a secondary dominant needs to be shown. If the context is such that the tonicising effect of sharping the 3rd of ii is negligible and not part of the plan, then II is more informative than V/V.
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