Dissertation Diary 2015-02-10

Last week I updated all my musical examples. Today I went thru and inserted them into the text. In doing so, I already found an error that needs to be fixed. I’m holding off with more example edits, because I’m afraid Chapter 3 might actually be Chapter 2 and I’ll have to redo all of them to fix the titles. Also, I’m awaiting feedback to see if the examples are in a logical order with good flow.

On that note: Chapter 3 is basically done, I think. Anyone who wants to read it and provide feedback on any level (flow, grammar, tone/jargon, etc) would be welcome! Below is the introduction to the chapter. I won’t be posting the whole thing, because then I would have to remake all the images as .png for wordpress to use them.


What follows is an introduction to the labels of Functional Analysis. These functional labels highlight several other things in addition to function, drawing attention to different aspects of music and harmony. Following the introduction, examples will demonstrate my implementation of these new labels as well as these priorities, which together lead to a better understanding of phrasing and prolongation.

Functional Analysis is based on the cadence, not the scale. Hearing chords as they have metaphorical motion towards cadences is the beginning of function. The stability of tonic is only in relationship to the desire of dominant to resolve in a cadence. In some idioms different sounds represent these desires; in this chapter we will focus on Common Practice Tonality, and different interpretations of function will come in Chapter IV. Because of this cadential focus, chords are organized in terms of relationships of fifths or thirds, rather than ordered linearly in a scale. Scale is a melodic phenomenon, and while melody and harmony are related, having a vertical harmonic conception is much clearer than trying to conceive of harmony linearly. Conceiving of harmony linearly is the realm of Schenkerian Analysis as described in Chapter II. A hybridization of Functional Analysis and Schenkerian Analysis will be explored in Chapter IV.

Functional Analysis encourages bass-oriented analysis. Bass pitches provide the foundation on which each function is built. Motion in the melody can happen over the bass without changing the function. However, labels are entirely root oriented, not bass oriented. This is an important distinction between Functional Analysis and Roman numerals; in Roman numerals, all intervals are shown from the bass. In Functional Analysis, intervals are shown from the root, regardless of whether the root is in the bass or not. Also, in Functional Analysis triads are important but not to exclusion; the bass-oriented function is more important than triad. If a given sonority has a strong sense of function but does not stack in thirds to form the expected functional triad, the function supersedes the triad. Example 3.20 shows this later in the chapter.

Finally, larger-span oriented analysis comes first, as students must understand phrase pillars before harmonic details. Starting large, at more background levels, allows students to come to grips with actual music sooner. It also makes phrase construction a natural part of very beginning analysis. The very first lesson begins with defining the cadence. There are no cadences without a concept of phrase, and the harmonic motion that defines a phrase is founded on the most important functional pillars. Once the big-idea concepts are in place, it is much easier to add detail, than to start with detail and try to zoom out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s