Reference Entry


William S. Rockstro, George Dyson, William Drabkin, Harold S. Powers and Julian Rushton

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print January 2001 |
Published online January 2001 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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(Fr. cadence; Ger. Kadenz, Schluss; It. cadenza)

The conclusion to a phrase, movement or piece based on a recognizable melodic formula, harmonic progression or dissonance resolution; the formula on which such a conclusion is based. The cadence is the most effective way of establishing or affirming the tonality – or, in its broadest sense, modality – of an entire work or the smallest section thereof; it may be said to contain the essence of the melodic (including rhythmic) and harmonic movement, hence of the musical language, that characterizes the style to which it belongs. The term was also used in France to denote various types of trill (also known as tremblement) or turn (double cadence); see Ornaments, §8.

In music of the tonal periods (Baroque, Classical and Romantic), it is useful to distinguish between cadences on the basis of their varying degrees of ‘finality’, for example between those whose final chord is on the tonic and those whose final chord is on some other degree of the scale, between those whose chords are all in root position and those which contain at least one inverted chord, and so on. A number of terms have been borrowed from medieval modal theory (authentic, plagal, Phrygian), not always on a strictly logical basis; there are also some cadences to which a number of names have been applied as a result of the persistence of terms introduced by theorists from the 18th century or earlier, and the translation of foreign-language equivalents. The following discussion is intended to clarify the meaning of the most important of these names as they are now used....

Reference Entry.  2810 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis ; Musical Structures, Styles, and Techniques

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