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Thirteenth-Century Polyphony

2. Two-voice intervals and progressions


Rather as 3-D graphics can be seen as a logical extension of 2-D drawing techniques, so music in any period for three or more voices reflects certain artistic assumptions about the nature of elementary two-voice intervals. The 13th century is no exception.

2.1. A subtle continuum of tension


Two-voice intervals range along a subtle scale of tension from the most purely blending to the most strongly discordant. While such distinctions are often relative, the absolute distinction between stable and unstable intervals is vital: Stable:
Purely blending Optimally blending (1, 8) (5, 4)

Unstable:
Relatively blending Relatively tense Strongly discordant (M3, m3) (M2, m7, M6) (m2, M7, tritone - and often m6)

Stable intervals, and especially the fifth, represent points of ideal concord and rest, often serving as goals of directed cadences. The more tense an unstable interval, the more urgently it suggests resolution to a stable

concord - an expectation often but not always immediately fulfilled. In two-voice music, the fifth is both optimally euphonious and conclusive, while the fourth is relatively stable but somewhat less conclusive. However, two-part pieces often begin or end with a purely blending (although less sonorous) unison or octave.

2.2. Directed cadences


The most powerful two-voice progressions in this period involve moving from an unstable interval to a stable one by stepwise or near-stepwise contrary motion. Either both voices move by step, or one moves by step and the other by a third. Here are examples illustrating some of the most important resolutions:
m2-4 m2-5 -----c'-d' f-g b -a e-c M2-4 ---b-c' a-g M2-5 ---g-a f-d m3-1 ---g-f e-f m3-5 ---g-a e-d M3-1 ---a-g f-g M3-5 ---a-b f-e

m6-8 m6-4 M6-8 M6-4 m7-5 M7-5 -----------------c'-d' f'-e' e'-f' a'-g' d'-c' e'-d' e -d a -b g -f c'-d' e -f f -g (Notation graphics: m2-4, m2-5, M2-4, M2-5, m3-1, m3-5, M3-1, M3-5, m6-8, m6-4, M6-8, M6-4, m7-5, M7-5)

In two-voice music, these progressions give a sense of directed and unifying motion. In music for three and four voices, they serve as the elementary building blocks of many powerful and beautiful cadences, as we shall see.

2.3. Obliquely resolving sonorities

Additionally, unstable intervals have standard resolutions where one voice remains stationary while the other moves by step or by a third (sometimes with the middle tone filled in). Here are some of the most common cases:
m2-1 --f-e e M2-1 ---a-g g m3-1 ------f-(e)-d d m3-5 --------c'-(d')-e' a M3-1 ------a-(g)-f f M3-5 -------b-(c')-d' g -

m6-5 M6-5 m7-8 m7-5 M7-8 M7-5 --------------------------f'-e' d'-c' c'-d' f'-(e')-d' e'-f' e'-(d')-c' a f d g f f (Notation graphics: m2-1, M2-1, m3-1, m3-5, M3-1, M3-5, m6-5, M6-5, m7-8, m7-5, M7-8, M7-5)

2.4. Summary
The music of the 13th century boldly exploits the entire spectrum of intervals from the most blending to the most aggressively discordant. While the distinction between stable and unstable intervals is absolute, there are various degrees of tension among the unstable intervals. Thus M3 and m3 are relatively blending but have some tension, while M2 and m7 are rather tense but have some "compatibility." Given this approach of flexibility and bold contrast, we should not be surprised to find an amazing variety and richness of multi-voice combinations and cadences.

Thirteenth-Century

Polyphony
3. Multi-voice combinations
Music for three or four voices is at once a logical extension and a glorious expansion of the two-voice elements we have just considered. It involves combining intervals to create new multi-voice sonorities, and also combining or superimposing two-voice progressions to build unifying cadences. Around 1300, Johannes de Grocheo tells us that three voices are required for complete harmony, and in fact three-voice compositions become the norm from the age of Perotin on. In this section, we survey some of the most important categories of stable and unstable combinations for three or four voices. Then in Section 4, we focus on directed cadential resolutions, while in Section 5 we consider obliquely resolving sonorities.

3.1. The unit of stability: the complete trine (8/5 or 8/4)


In theory and practice, the unit of complete harmony in the 13th century is a combination with three voices and intervals: the trine (trina harmoniae perfectio, or "threefold perfection of harmony," as Johannes de Grocheio calls it). This sonority requires three voices, the foundation-tone, fifth, and octave, and it includes three intervals: an outer octave, a lower fifth, and an upper fourth:

|g' | 4 8|d' | 5 |g (Notation graphic)

Throughout the 13th century, and well beyond, this combination represents ideal euphony and stable plenitude; it is a point of rest and the goal of unstable sonorities. Using a much later but rather familiar form of notation, we may describe this combination as 8/5 (8 + 5 + 4). The "8/5" tells us that the intervals above the lowest tone are an octave and fifth, while the "(8 + 5 + 4)" identifies all three intervals, including the upper fourth. In theory and practice, these same three intervals may be arranged conversely so that the fourth is below and the fifth above:
|g' | 5 8|c' | 4 |g (Notation graphic)

This combination - 8/4 (8 + 5 + 4) -- is also common, especially in the period around 1200, but is very rarely conclusive. Around 1325, Jacobus of Liege expresses the likely view of 13th-century musicians that this sonority, while concordant, is less pleasing than the ideal arrangement of fifth below and fourth above. He suggests a general rule that a larger or more blending interval (here the fifth) should best be placed below a smaller or less blending interval (here the fourth).

In this guide, I shall use the term "trine" for both the 8/5 and 8/4 combinations, but with the 8/5 trine normally presumed unless the context indicates otherwise.

3.2. Mildly unstable combinations (5/3, 9/5, 7/4, 5/4, 5/2)


While the trine represents complete and stable harmony, two families of mildly unstable combinations add sheer vertical color to the music as well as lending themselves to a variety of directed and decorative resolutions. Happily, we have an eloquent witness: Jacobus of Liege mentions the pleasing qualities of these combinations, and indeed the music speaks for itself. 3.2.1. The "split fifth" (5/3) In the quinta fissa or "split fifth" of Jacobus, an outer fifth is "divided" by a third voice into two thirds: 5/M3 (5 + M3 + m3) or the "converse" arrangement of 5/m3 (5 + m3 + M3). Here the fifth is ideally blending, while the two thirds are unstable but relatively blending (being the mildest unstable intervals). Incidentally, Jacobus prefers the form with the major third below and minor third above, but notes that the converse is also permissible, citing the opening of a 13th-century motet preserved in the Bamberg Codex.
| d' | m3 5 | b 5 | M3 | g (Notation graphics: | | | | | 1, e' M3 c' m3 a 2)

The 5/3 combination often resolves by directed contrary motion (Section 4.1), and has a featured role in many internal and final cadences. Additionally, throughout the century it is often treated more freely, as we might expect for one of the mildest unstable combinations, and in fact the only one to consist exclusively of stable or relatively blending intervals. 3.2.2. Energetic quintal/quartal fusion (9/5, 7/4, 5/4, 5/2) Jacobus also tells us about another favorite kind of mildly unstable combination common in practice from Perotin on. Two fifths, two fourths, or a fifth and a fourth combine with a relatively tense M2, m7, or M9 in a kind of energetic blend or fusion. In his monumental Speculum musicae or "Mirror of Music," Jacobus enthusiastically recommends the threevoice sonority of a major ninth "split" into two fifths by a third voice, i.e. 9/5 (M9 + 5 + 5). He also observes that it is pleasant if a minor seventh is "split" into two fourths, i.e. 7/4 (m7 + 4 + 4).
| g' | 5 M9 | c' m7 | 5 | f (Notation graphics: 1, 2) | f' | 4 | c' | 4 | g

Additionally, Jacob mentions another very common type of sonority, in which an outer fifth is "split" into a fourth below and a major second above, or the converse:
| d' | M2 | d' | 4

5 | c' 5 | a | 4 | | g | g (Notation graphics: 1, 2)

M2

These four sonorities, like 5/3, represent the mildest unstable combinations possible: here two of the intervals are ideally blending fifths and/or fourths, while the third interval (M2, m7, or M9) is relatively tense but not sharply discordant. The treatise of Jacobus suggests that to 13th-century ears, as to modern ones, the overall impression was one of an energetic variant on 8/5 or 8/4, with the unstable major second or ninth or minor seventh lending a sense of excitement and motion. While these combinations sometimes participate in directed cadential progressions (Section 4.2), they often lend themselves to resolutions by oblique mention (Section 5.2) - or, like 5/3, to freer treatments.

3.3. Tenser cadential combinations


In addition to stable trines and mildly unstable combinations, composers of the 13th century deploy some strikingly tense cadential combinations resolving very effectively to a complete trine or a fifth (the prime interval of an 8/5 trine). These combinations fall into two major families. 3.3.1. Sixth combinations (6/3, 6/5, 6/5/3, 6/2, 6/4) Combinations with an outer sixth characteristically resolve to a complete trine, with the sixth expanding to the octave of this trine. We shall focus on this group of

cadences in Section 4.3. For now, it may suffice to give some examples of the most common forms: 6/3, 6/5, 6/5/3, 6/2, and 6/4. These sonorities, although all on the tense side, may vary considerably in their degree of tension. We should recall that M6 is relatively tense, roughly on par with M2 and m7, while m6 is often regarded as sharply discordant (like m2, M7, tritone). Forms involving m6, m2, or tritonic fifths or fourths heighten the level of tension, and along with their somewhat gentler relatives are very effectively employed by Perotin and other composers. The following examples may give a sampling of these possibilities:
| f' | | m2 | | e' | 4 M2 m6 | | c' 5 | | a m3 M3 | |

| c' | | | m6 | g | 5 | m3 | | e | m6/m3 (m6 + m3 + 4) M3 + 4) | f' | d5 m6 | b | M2 | a 4

| e' | M6 | d' | | g

M6/5 (M6 + 5 + M2)

m6/5/m3 (m6 + 5 + m2 + m3 +

| e' | M3 M6 | c' | 4 | g

m6/M2 M6/4 (m6 + M2 + d5) (M6 + 4 + M3) (Notation graphics: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

The fact that these sixth sonorities include a large number of unstable intervals means from a cadential perspective that they invite some very dynamic resolutions. As we shall see, the 6/3, 6/5, and 6/5/3 combinations can expand to a complete trine in an especially efficient manner which makes them among the most favored of cadential sonorities. Additionally, the 6/5 combination often resolves by oblique motion to a simple fifth (the highest voice descending a step while the others remain stationary), as is discussed in Section 5.3. 3.3.2. Seventh combinations (7/3, 7/5, 7/5/3) In the other leading family of more tense cadential combinations, an outer minor seventh characteristically contracts by stepwise contrary motion to a fifth. In Section 4.4, we shall explore these standard progressions. For now, let us briefly look at these sonorities themselves. As with the sixth combinations, they are all decidedly on the tense side, but more so in the case of forms including M7 or a tritonic fifth. Here we consider 7/3, 7/5, and 7/5/3, sampling some of these possibilities:
| | | m7 | | | | d' | m3 | b | 5 | M3 | | g | | 5 m3 | e |

| e' | 5 M7 | a | M3 | f M7/M3 (M7 + M3 + 5)

| a' | M3 m7 | f' | d5 | b m7/d5 (m7 + d5 + M3)

m7/5/m3 (m7 + m3 + M3 + m3 +

5 + 5) (Notation graphics: 1, 2, 3)

As in the case of our sixth combinations, a preponderance of unstable intervals means a wealth of opportunities for directed cadential action. Additionally, the 7/5 combination lends itself to an oblique resolution where the upper voice ascends stepwise (Section 5.4).

3.4. Summary of combinations


Here we have by no means covered the full range of combinations appearing in 13th-century music: Jacobus lists a catalogue of such sonorities with outer intervals ranging from a major third to a twelfth (about the practical limit, given the typical range of voices in this period). However, attuning ourselves to some of the most prevalent and important families of sonorities is a large step toward appreciating and understanding this music. The stable trine (8/5, with its variant form of 8/4) is the unit of complete harmony, and the ultimate goal of unstable combinations. The "split fifth" with its two thirds (5/3), and mildly unstable combinations featuring a preponderance of fifths or fourths (9/5, 7/4, 5/4, 5/2), are relatively blending. They add pleasant vertical color to the music, and lend themselves either to standard resolutions or to a freer treatment. Other, tenser, combinations strongly invite directed cadential resolutions where an outer sixth expands to the octave of a complete trine (6/3, 6/5, 6/5/3, 6/2, and sometimes 6/4), or an outer seventh contracts to a fifth

(7/3, 7/5, 7/5/3). Having considered the harmonic vocabulary of 13thcentury music, we now turn to its dynamic grammar: the ways in which an unstable

Thirteenth-Century Polyphony
4. Directed cadences for three or four voices
In two-voice writing, as we have seen (Section 2.2), the most compelling cadential events involve progressing from an unstable to a stable interval by stepwise or nearstepwise contrary motion. Music for three or four voices permits a logical and glorious expansion of this pattern. In the most favored cadences, an unstable combination artfully resolves by directed contrary motion to a richly stable sonority, ideally a complete 8/5 trine. Such cadences, whether involving mildly unstable combinations or dramatically discordant ones, tend to follow patterns suggesting two main "guidelines": (1) The unstable combination as a whole should resolve to a richly stable sonority, ideally an 8/5 trine, and next most preferably a fifth (the prime interval of 8/5), with 8/4 or a fourth as alternate goals.

(2) Each unstable interval should ideally resolve by stepwise contrary motion, and next most preferably by near-stepwise contrary motion (one voice moving by step, and the other by a third). An actual example may make these points clearer:
f'-g' c'-d' a -g m6/m3-8/5 (m6-8 + m3-5) (Notation graphic)

In this progression, very common throughout the 13th century, a rather tense m6/m3 combination (m6 + m3 + 4) expands to a complete 8/5 trine (8 + 5 + 4). Both unstable intervals resolve by stepwise contrary motion (m6-8, m3-5), and these two resolutions reinforce each other, together making possible our arrival at a complete trine. All three voices move by step, each contributing to the total effect of directed cadential action. Our notation below the example indicates that an m6/m3 sonority resolves to 8/5, and then identifies the mutually reinforcing two-voice resolutions (m6-8 + m3-5). Note that while either m6-8 or m3-5 serves as an effective cadence in two-part writing, music for three or voices opens the new possibility of combining both progressions at once, and introduces the vital new element of the complete trine as an ideal cadential goal. More generally, we will often find it useful to analyze a multi-voice cadence as a mutually reinforcing union of directed two-voice resolutions. Given the variety of such

resolutions (Section 2.2), we might expect to find a diverse range of multi-voice cadences; and so we do. Before exploring this universe of directed vertical progressions, we may do well to consider the broad meaning of "cadential" action in our present context. While the progressions we are about to discuss are indeed favored at final closes or internal cadences in the narrower sense, they may occur more generally at almost any point where there is a "change of harmony" - that is, where the lowest voice or foundation-tone (fundamentum) changes. In this broad sense, cadential events occur constantly in most 13th-century pieces, often making possible smoother melody as well as satisfying vertical contrasts (Section 6).

4.1. The versatile "split fifth" (5/3)


The 5/3 combination or "split fifth" (Section 3.1) is much favored in 13th-century music not only because it is one of the mildest unstable combination, but also because it invites some very efficient resolutions. Three such resolutions are favored throughout the century:
g-a e-d c-d d'-c' b -c' g -f d'-f' b -c' g -f 5/M3-8/5 (M3-5)

5/M3-5 5/M3-5 (M3-1 + m3-5) (m3-1 + M3-5) (Notation graphics: 1, 2, 3)

In the first two progressions, the two unstable thirds both resolve by stepwise contrary motion: one contracts to a

unison while the other expands to a fifth, as all three voices move stepwise. The outer voices of the "split fifth" move together, either ascending or descending by a step, while the middle voice which "splits" the fifth into two thirds moves in the opposite direction, neatly resolving both unstable intervals. In the third progression, the lower third of 5/3 expands to the fifth of a complete 8/5 trine (here M3-5), while the outer fifth of 5/3 expands to the octave of the trine. Each of these efficient resolutions involves a slight compromise of our ideal cadential guidelines. In the first two cases, each unstable interval resolves by stepwise contrary motion (3-1 + 3-5), but we arrive at a simple fifth rather than a complete trine. In the third case, only the lower third resolves by stepwise contrary motion (3-5), the upper third resolving by similar motion to the upper fourth of the trine. Thus we gain greater sonority at a slight sacrifice of cadential efficiency. Both minor compromises are quite acceptable, and indeed these progressions are among the most popular cadences from Perotin to Petrus de Cruce. While our last examples happen to involve 5/M3, Jacobus of Liege's favored form with major third below and minor third above, the same progressions also occur with his "converse" form 5/m3, and also sometimes with the discordant tritonic variant of d5/m3:
b-c' g-f e-f etc. b-a g-a e-d b-d' g-a e-d f'-g' d'-c' b -c'

5/m3-5 5/m3-5 (m3-1 + M3-5) (M3-1 + m3-5) m3-5) (Notation graphics: 1, 2, 3, 4)

5/m3-8/5 (m3-5)

d5/m3-5 (m3-1 +

In four-voice writing, we encounter an interesting variation on this pattern: the 8/5/3 combination (8 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 3 + 6) resolving by stepwise motion of all voices to a complete trine. Note that this sonority may be somewhat more tense than 5/3 because of the major or minor sixth between two of the upper voices. In any case, all three unstable intervals resolve by stepwise contrary motion, and we arrive at a complete trine, so the popularity of this type of cadence in four-voice music is not surprising:
g'-a' d'-e' b -a g -a 8/5/M3-8/5 (M3-1 + m3-5 + m6-8) (Notation graphics: 1, 2) g'-f' d'-c' b -c' g -f 8/5/3-8/5 (m3-1 + M3-5 + m6-4)

4.2. Mildly unstable quintal/quartal sonorities (9/5, 7/4, 5/4, 5/2)


Like 5/3, these combinations serve as a great resource for harmonic color; however, they play a somewhat less prominent role as directed cadential sonorities. Let us first quickly consider the possibilities of 9/5 and 7/4, and then explore the more versatile role of 5/4 and 5/2, which do rather frequently resolve by directed contrary motion in the course of a piece, now and then providing material for final cadences.

The 9/5 combination (M9 + 5 + 5) seems to lend itself more to oblique than to directed resolutions, although I am aware of one curious resolution where the major ninth contracts to a fifth, each voice leaping by a third:
e'-c' a -c' d -f 9/5-5 (M9-5) (Notation graphic)

In another resolution by contrary motion, the major ninth expands to a twelfth while the lower fifth expands to an octave, arriving at a 12/8 sonority. This progression is probably rather rare because of the limited range of most 13th-century polyphony, and it is my impression that it occurs mostly in pieces from around 1300:
g'-a' c'-d' f -d 9/5-12/8 (M9-12) (Notation graphic)

The 7/4 combination permits a resolution where the outer minor seventh contracts to a fifth, and this progression does occur now and then, although it is more characteristic of the tenser seventh combinations (7/5, 7/3, 7/5/3) to be examined in Section 4.4:
f'-e' c'-e' g -a 7/4-5 (m7-5)

(Notation graphic)

As we shall see (Section 5.2), 9/5 and 7/4 both invite very effective resolutions by oblique motion, as well as freer treatments. In the case of 5/4 and 5/2, however, resolutions by directed contrary motion as well as oblique motion play a significant role in the cadential lexicon of the 13th century. In such directed progressions, the unstable major second of 5/4 or 5/2 expands to a stable fourth or fifth (M2-4 or M2-5):
e'-f' d'-c' a -f d'-e' c'-a g -a e'-f' b -c' a -f d'-c' a -c' g -f 5/2-5 (M2-5)

5/4-8/5 5/4-5 5/2-8/5 (M2-4) (M2-5) (M2-5) (Notation graphics: 1, 2, 3, 4)

As with 5/3 (Section 4.1), the outer fifth may expand to the octave of a complete trine; or the two outer voices may ascend or descend together by step, with the progression arriving at a simple fifth rather than a full trine. These directed resolutions of 5/4 and 5/2 are quite common, and occasionally serve as final cadences.

4.3. Sixth combinations (6/3, 6/5, 6/5/3, 6/2, 6/4)


Moving to tenser combinations, we now consider two groups of cadential sonorities par excellence: sixth and seventh combinations.

As already noted (Section 3.3), cadential sixth combinations characteristically resolve to a complete 8/5 trine, with the outer sixth expanding to the octave of the trine (M6-8 or m6-8). This process is especially efficient in the case of the 6/3 and 6/5 combinations, the 6-8 resolution combining nicely with a 3-5 or 2-4 resolution:
d'-e' a -b f -e M6/M3-8/5 (M6-8 + M3-5) (Notation graphics: 1, 2) e'-f' d'-c' g -f M6/5-8/5 (M6-8 + M2-4)

Note that in each case both unstable intervals resolve by stepwise contrary motion, and the progression arrives at an ideally sonorous 8/5 trine, satisfying our criteria for a superb cadence. As it happens, these two examples feature the comparatively milder M6/M3 (M6 + M3 + 4) and M6/5 (M6 + 5 + M2) combinations, but more discordant permutations involving m6, m2, and tritonic fourths or fifths are also common. In four-part writing, another powerful cadential sonority becomes available: 6/5/3 (6 + 3 + 3 + 2 + 5 + 4). For an example, let us take one of the more discordant forms, m6/5/m3, including m6 and m2 as well as two more mildly unstable thirds:
f'-g' e'-d' c'-d' a -g

m6/5/m3-8/5 (m6-8 + m2-4 + M3-1 + m3-5) (Notation graphic)

This memorable cadence occurs at the close of Vetus abit littera, an anonymous piece worthy of Perotin. Here we have no fewer than four unstable intervals, each of which felicitously resolves by stepwise contrary motion, bringing us to an 8/5 trine. While 6/3, 6/5, and 6/5/3 are ideally efficient cadential sonorities, the 6/2 combination is somewhat less ideal, since it requires a leap of a third in the middle part in order to resolve to 8/5:
e'-f' a -c' g -f M6/M2-8/5 (M6-8 + M2-5) (Notation graphic)

The 6/4 combination seems yet less efficient as a cadential sonority resolving to 8/5 by way of a 6-8 progression, since the middle voice remains stationary, and the upper third thus resolves by oblique rather than contrary motion - a pattern not especially favored in this period for directed cadences:
f'-g' d'-d' a -g m6/4-8/5 (m6-8) (Notation graphics: 1, 2) e'-f c'-c' g -f M6/4-8/5 (M6-8)

Interestingly, a progression in which both unstable intervals resolve by stepwise contrary motion is possible, but to the usually less conclusive 8/4 rather than 8/5:
f'-g' d'-c' a -g m6/4-8/4 (m6-8 + m3-5) (Notation graphic)

In practice, the 6/3 and 6/5 forms are most important in three-part music, while the 6/5/3 form is very popular in four-part pieces. Final closes, internal cadences, and transient progressions from one sonority to the next provide frequent occasions for their use in directed vertical action.

4.4. Seventh combinations (7/3, 7/5, 7/5/3)


Like the sixth combinations we have just considered, seventh combinations such as 7/3, 7/5, and 7/5/3 also invite compelling directed resolutions in which the outer seventh contracts to a fifth (m7-5 or M7-5). In 7/3 (7 + 3 + 5) and 7/5 (7 + 5 + 3), the milder unstable third likewise contracts to a unison in the most typical pattern:
e'-d' a -g f -g M7/M3-5 (M7-5 + M3-1) (Notation graphics: 1, 2) d'-c' b -c' e -f m7/5-5 (m7-5 + m3-1)

These cadences nicely meet our guideline that all unstable intervals should resolve by stepwise contrary

motion (7-5 + 3-1), but represent a slight compromise in the department of full sonority: we arrive at a simple fifth rather than a full trine. In four-part pieces, including Perotin's, we also meet an especially impressive seventh combination: 7/5/3 (7 + 5 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3). Here is a milder form with m7 and without any tritonic fifths:
d'-c' b -c' g -f e -f m7/5/m3-5 (m7-5 + m3-1 + M3-5 + m3-1) (Notation graphic)

As in the typical resolution of 6/5/3 (Section 4.3), all four unstable intervals progress to stable ones by stepwise contrary motion. In this case, as with the other seventh combinations, we arrive at a simple fifth rather than a complete trine - a small and acceptable compromise of sonority. Like the sixth combinations, these seventh combinations play a vital cadential role throughout the century, often with superb effect. A fuller discussion would cover related forms such as 8/7, 8/7/3, and 8/7/5, and also idioms which might be considered part-writing variations on the basic resolutions we have just surveyed.

Thirteenth-Century

Polyphony
5. Multi-voice Obliquely Resolving Sonorities
Having looked at directed cadential progressions for three or four voices, we now turn to resolutions by oblique motion. Some popular combinations lend themselves readily to both treatments: for example, 5/3, 5/4, 5/2, 6/5, and 7/5. As we saw in Section 2.3, two-voice music frequently features resolutions from an unstable to a stable interval where one voice remains stationary while the other moves by a step, or by a third (sometimes with the middle step filled in), e.g. 7-8, 7-(6)-5. Extending this technique to music for three or voices, composers often apply these basic resolutions to the unstable intervals of various combinations, with one or more voices moving by oblique motion while the others remain stationary. Let us consider some of the most common resolutions of this kind, with a definite caution that the following presentation is only a very partial sampling.

5.1. The "split fifth" unsplit (5/3, 8/5/3)


While the "split fifth" or 5/3 often resolves by directed cadential action (Section 4.1), it can also resolve by oblique motion of the middle voice which "splits" the fifth into two unstable thirds:

a f-(e)-d d 5 m3-(M2)-1 [m3-(M2)-1 + M3-(4)+5] (Notation graphics: 1, 2)

d' b-(c')-d' g 5 M3-(4)-5 [M3-(4)-5 + m3-(M2)-1]

The middle voice descends or ascends by a third, possibly moving through the intervening step, to arrive at a unison with one of the outer voices and a fifth with the other. Thus we are left with a stable "unsplit" fifth. From a vertical point of view, we might say that the mild tension of the two thirds has "evaporated" without impelling a directed progression. Of course, the motion of the middle voice (often in quick note values) also adorns the music melodically. In music for four voices, the 8/5/3 sonority likewise invites this kind of oblique resolution as well as the standard directed resolutions. Here the resolution of the two unstable thirds - and also an unstable sixth with respect to the highest voice - leaves us with a complete 8/5 trine:
f' c' a-(g)-f f 8 5 M3-(M2)-1 [M3-(M2)-1 + m3-(4)-5 + m6-(m7)-8] + M6-(5)-4] (Notation graphics: 1, 2) d' a f-(g)-a d 8 5 m3-(M2)-1 [m3-(M2)-1 + M3-(4)-5

5.2. Mildly unstable quintal/quartal

sonorities (9/5, 7/4, 5/4, 5/2)


These relatively blending combinations very frequently resolve by oblique motion, sometimes with impressive effect indeed. The 9/5, 5/4, and 5/2 combinations can neatly resolve to a stable trine or fifth by the stepwise motion of a single voice, while 7/4 invites a beautiful resolution in which the two upper voices ascend stepwise in fourths to the octave and fifth of an 8/5 trine. The 9/5 combination most typically resolves to an 8/5 trine by the stepwise descent of the upper voice (M9-8), and may alternatively resolve to an 8/4 trine by the stepwise descent of both upper voices in fifths:
g'-f' c' f M9-8 5 b'-a' e'-d' a M9-8 5 -4

[M9-8] [M9-8] (Notation graphics: 1, 2)

As just mentioned, 7/4 often resolves by a stepwise ascent of the two upper voices to the octave and fifth of a complete trine:
f'-g' c'-d' g m7-8 4 -5 [m7-8] (Notation graphic)

The energetic but relatively concordant qualities of the 7/4 sonority, the pleasant motion of the upper voices in parallel fourths, and the arrival at an ideal 8/5 combination make this a strikingly beautiful progression. Especially in the music of Perotin's time, it sometimes serves as a very felicitous final or sectional cadence. While the 5/4 and 5/2 combinations rather frequently resolve by directed cadential motion (Section 4.2), they also invite oblique resolutions rather similar to those of 5/3 (Section 5.1). The middle voice, which here "splits" the outer fifth into a euphonious fourth and a relatively tense major second, typically moves stepwise into a unison with the nearer outer voice (M2-1):
d' c'-d' g 5 4-5 [M2-1] (Notation graphics: 1, 2) c'g-f f 5 M2-1 [M2-1]

Thus we are left with an "unsplit" stable fifth.

5.3. Sixth combinations (6/3, 6/5, 6/5/3, 6/2, 6/4)


Again we move to more tense combinations. In addition to their vital role as directed cadential sonorities, combinations with an outer sixth also permit a variety of resolutions by oblique motion. Here we consider only a few main possibilities. The 6/5 combination, in addition to inviting one of the

most effective directed progressions of the 13th century (Section 4.3), also has an alternative resolution by oblique motion in which the upper voice descends from the sixth to the fifth:
d'-c' c' f M6-5 5 [M6-5 + M2-1] (Notation graphics: 1, 2) c'-b b e m6-5 5 [m6-5 + m2-1]

This motion of the upper voice produces two simultaneous resolutions: a 6-5 resolution with the lowest voice, and a 2-1 resolution with the middle voice. Our examples show the milder M6/5 form, where both unstable intervals (M6 and M2) are relatively tense but not sharply discordant, and one of the more intense forms: m6/5 (with m6 and m2). The 6/2 combination, when it does not resolve in a directed manner, sometimes resolves by the stepwise descent of both upper voices, arriving at a stable fifth:
e'-d' a -g g M6-5 M2-1 [M6-5 + M2-1] (Notation graphic)

Here both upper voices have standard oblique resolutions with the lower voice: 6-5 for the highest voice, and 2-1 for

the middle voice. The parallel fifths between the upper voices add an element of texture and color.

5.4. Seventh Combinations (7/3, 7/5, 7/5/3)


While many oblique resolutions are possible for these combinations as alternatives to their superb directed resolutions (Section 4.4), we here consider an especially important form in which the seventh of 7/5 ascends to the octave of a complete trine:
c'-d' a d m7-8 5 [m7-8 + m3-4] (Notation graphics: 1, 2) e'-f' c' f M7-8 5 [M7-8 + M3-4]

The motion of the upper voice produces a 7-8 resolution with the lowest voice and a 3-4 resolution with the middle voice. Both the milder form with m7/5 and the dramatically intense one with M7/5 are very common. A complete discussion would look at various other resolutions: for example, the seventh in the above examples might descend to the fifth rather than ascending to the octave, and 7/3 can also resolve by oblique motion in various ways.

6. Concluding words
This first crude draft is, as cautioned, a very partial

introduction. I have focused on patterns rather than exceptions. The music itself presents patterns, variations, and exceptions - and any line between these categories must also necessarily be arbitrary. As in most polyphonic music, there is a constant and often subtle interaction between the vertical and melodic dimensions. A rather transient tone may permit a smoother and more graceful melody at the same time as it results in a directed vertical progression. Almost any point where the lowest voice moves by step or by third provides an opportunity for "cadential action" in this freer sense, however momentary, and there are pieces where such progressions seem to occur at most transitions between measures in a modern score. The sustained-tone organum passages of Perotin and his colleagues, like the "pedal harmonies" of other periods, present a special kind of vertical color. Typically such passages focus on a stable 8/5 or 8/4 sonority above the sustained tenor, but exploit the full range of combinations we have explored. At times the upper two or three voices may engage in directed progressions (Section 4) above or around the unchanging sustained note; a change in the tenor provides the opportunity for a decisive cadence involving all voices. For an excellent example, see (and hear or perform) the end of the first portion of Perotin's Sederunt principles for four voices. To set the syllable "-runt", Perotin repeats a phrase twice. The first time, the vertical tension dissipates; the second time, it is released in the cadence with m7/5/m3 described in Section 4.4. It is well to end on a note of humility: any modern

explanation of this music must rest in good part on one's own artistic perception and conceptual imagination, hopefully not inconsistent with the theory of the period and the evidence of the music itself.