Academic journal article Music Theory Online

The Cadential IV in Rock

Academic journal article Music Theory Online

The Cadential IV in Rock

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Example 1. The Landini Cadence

[1.1] A cadence is a musical gesture, defined by melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic characteristics or some combination, used to establish closure and sectional articulation. Cadences serve an important communicative function, indicating to the listener when a section is ending and thus helping to clarify the formal structure of the piece. Cadences take very different forms in different musical idioms. In medieval and Renaissance music, cadences are characterized by quite specific melodic and rhythmic features, such as the Landini cadence of the 14th century (Example 1). In common-practice tonal music, by contrast, cadences are defined harmonically, with considerable variety in their rhythmic and melodic details. For example, the perfect authentic cadence-the most strongly closural cadence of the style-can be roughly defined as a root position V harmony followed by a root position I, with some kind of underlying motion to the tonic in the melody. Similarly, in jazz, at least through the bebop era, a V-I harmonic cadence is customary at the end of sections and pieces. As a final example from a very different idiom, cadences play an important role in North Indian classical music; Jairazbhoy 1971 notes that many Indian rags feature characteristic cadential patterns that appear at the ends of phrases and sections.

[1.2] In this paper I will examine the role of cadences in rock. Does rock have cadences, and if so, what are they? My concern here is with cadences of a large-scale kind-those that end a section or an entire song, rather than merely a phrase. I will argue that the IV chord plays an important and complex role in large-scale cadences in rock. My main focus will be on what I will call "sectional cadences"-those that occur at the end of a chorus. Among songs that have sectional cadences (many do not), I will argue that there are two main types, the V-I cadence and the IV-I cadence (some statistical evidence will be provided on this point); following convention, I will call the latter type a plagal cadence. A particularly common use of the sectional plagal cadence is one in which the IV and I are separated by a rest in the accompanying instruments, while the vocal continues over the rest and overlaps into the I and the beginning of the next section-what I call a "plagal stop cadence." This cadence raises some interesting general issues about the way cadential closure is achieved in rock.

[1.3] Beyond the sectional plagal cadence, I will examine several other uses of IV in rock that are in some way cadential. The "grand plagal cadence" is a highly emphasized cadence, often accompanied by a fermata, that occurs only once near the end of a song. The "deceptive IV" is an occurrence of IV in place of an expected I; deceptive IV chords often arise in cadential contexts (though they may also occur elsewhere). Cadential IV chords may also be tonicized, in ways that contribute to their cadential impact. As we will see, these various functions of IV-the sectional plagal cadence, the grand plagal cadence, the deceptive IV, and the tonicized IV-can sometimes be combined in complex ways, such that a single chord can serve several functions at once.

[1.4] The general topic of harmony in rock has been the subject of considerable discussion, both in general studies of the style (Moore 2001, Stephenson 2002, Everett 2004) and in analytical studies of individual songs and artists (e.g. the essays in Covach and Boone, eds. 1997, Holm-Hudson, ed. 2002, and Everett 2008a). While the views of these authors differ in many respects, certain basic facts about rock seem self-evident and are accepted by virtually all authors (though sometimes only implicitly). First of all, rock is tonal in the broadest sense; in general, each song has a single pitch center that serves as a point of tonal focus and stability.(1) Rock is also harmonic, in that most songs can be divided into short segments governed by harmonies or chords. …

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