chapter  4
25 Pages

Voice Leading I

Parallel Fifths
WithTimothy Cutler

Voice leading is one of the primary parameters that sets apart traditional classical music from modern popular music. The neighboring gesture is in perpetual motion, the main feature of four-part voice is its static quality: it is a decorated common tone to the surrounding tonic and dominant chords. Some unobjectionable parallel fifths lurk inconspicuously in textures that contain large amounts of doubling. The bass and soprano obey traditional voice-leading principles, and the space between them is stuffed with as many chord tones as possible. Parallel fifths, which permeate all but a few measures of M. Ravel’s song, are one of the primary elements that imbue this composition with charm and beauty. Perhaps it is excusable when a youngster writes erroneous parallel fifths. But when that child is the thirteen-year old Mozart, and a sparse two-voice texture makes his parallels all the more prominent, these fifths demand special consideration.