File this one under “only on the internet”: My Better Half and I were looking over a textbook she’ll be using next semester. We noted that this book instructs students to analyze cadential 6-4 chords as tonic chords in second inversion, a gravely misguided message which—according to our core beliefs and values—hurts America: The cadential 6-4 is a dominant chord with a double suspension; its root is V, not I. That’s just how ordinary Minnesotans like us see things. It’s the kind of thing we spend hours in the classroom trying to convey to our students, so we were especially disheartened to see such an objectionable claim crop up in a textbook.
So I tweeted, tongue cheek-adjacent, that the only time it’s OK to burn books is if a theory textbook tells you that the root of a cadential 6-4 is I. Like, ha ha, right? He’s making a joke about music theory and biblioclasm. Two of the four people who read my tweets won’t get it, and—best case scenario—the other two will chuckle softly. However, shortly after I opened my beak to let this gem out into the world, my glib assertion vis à vis roots was called into question, and not by just anyone: by a performer whose stature in the world of new music is very high. When 17-year-olds from Shakopee step to me on this issue, I brush aside their objections with cavalier self-assuredness; a few vaguely Schenkerian dots and lines on a chalkboard are usually enough to convince them. But this dude owns three soprano chalumeaus, so when he begs to differ, I have to think twice.
I still maintain that a cadential 6-4 is a dominant with a double suspension. Nevertheless, this cyberencounter reminded me to maybe be a little more circumspect when trafficking in curricular items that are not self-evident. That two professionals might not see eye-to-eye on even as small (in the grand scheme) a matter as this one should be obvious, but at any rate I’m grateful for the bracing shot of perspective.