Edelweiss: feeling the Cadential six-four

This 3-5 minute activity is the final one in a class whose subtext was “feeling the cadential six-four.” It also had a really nice connection with my students’ prepared singing (Purcell, “Dido’s Lament”). I didn’t get this post written before class, so here’s an overview of how it went and aspects I could tweak for next time.

As always, class started with warm ups.  There were no sneaky six-fours included in their warm ups.

Before arriving to class, students had sightsung three melodies and circled problem spots. During class, I had them plan a warm-up that addressed their circled spots and then put them on the spot to sing it for the class (a new activity to promote more individual singing). The class repeated the warm up and we then launched into the tune.  I harmonized it as they sang. When we sang it for the 2nd and final time, I asked them to listen for the cadential six-four reminding them of three things: (1) it feels like a lean; (2) it delays the arrival of the leading tone, and (3) my right hand is on tonic-triad notes but it feels non-tonic since my left-hand is not on ^1 or ^3. When they heard it, they formed a “C” with one of their hands.  (I also had them make an “X” with their arms when they heard my voice exchanges.)  We also took time to explore new activities of improvising bass lines and singing in thirds.  It was pretty awful, but –with practice– we will get better at it.

We then moved into their prepared work, which included a sing-and-play of Purcell’s aria, “Dido’s Lament” (play the ground bass while singing the opening of the aria). Their course pack has a harmonized version of the ground bass, which included a cadential six-four. One task for students as they listened to colleagues and watched the score was to locate the six-four.

Finally, we ended with Edelweiss.  I put the form on the board (aa’ba’) and we listened to the tune, paying particular attention to locating the cadential six-four by feel. (It occurs at the cadences of the a’ sections.) After we all found it, we listened again, humming along with the bass line, which I doubled at the piano. We closed class by figuring out the bass line for the last a’ section, which uses the same paradigm as Purcell’s ground bass: a descending (mostly) chromatic line from ^1 to ^5.

For next time, I think the biggest tweak I could make is to NOT have the six-four be a subtext.  Honestly, this theme kinda happened accidentally in my first class–I had planned on using Edelweiss for in time harmonic analysis, but the six-four emerged as a timely and important topic in the class, so I changed direction at the last minute.  So, next time I teach this tune, the six-four will explicitly be the point of the class.

One small tweak I would make is to put 32 empty bars on the board for Edelweiss, giving students a more concrete visual to hang on to.

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