Elided cadences

Posted on Jul 14th, 2012 by Jeanne Golan

My doctoral thesis advisor Robert Bailey died last month.  When I think of him, I think of elided cadences, seeming phrase ends that simultaneously dovetail with beginnings, a way of continuing a musical conversation that either has utmost flow or surprise, depending on how the composer handles it.

I took every course he offered, and contrary to many a musicology class, he let us listen to whole pieces.  And he, having set us up to truly hear the passageways and their transportive climaxes, would chain-smoke (at least in those days) – one hand flicking ashes and the other flipping pages of the score.  His specialty was Wagner and the generations that followed, but he was brilliant in every musical regard, and so droll in his delivery that when he turned a phrase, his lip would curl ever so slightly as he quickly checked to see who’d caught his cleverness, all the while never missing a beat in his lecture.

For my dissertation, I wrote about Brahms, the F minor Sonata, and he encouraged me to pursue an interpretation of the piece’s genesis and development that had not been approached before (or since from what I can gather!).  I always meant to get it published, and last year, was asked to rework it for a literary magazine.  In doing so, I discovered some remarkable parallels with Ullmann’s Fifth Sonata, and am convinced that Ullmann used it either wittingly or subconsciously as a model.  The article is not yet in print, but I’d looked forward to sending it to Bob when it was out.

So we’re back to elided cadences; the timing is off, a cue was missed and I’ll miss knowing he’s a subway ride away.  Still, I have this fantasy that Bob has elided himself somehow, and with the almost inaudible ‘heh’ he’d sound when he was particularly amused or taken with an idea, might read it over my shoulder one of these days anyway….

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