Dissertation Diary 2016-04-14

This week I worked on detail edits and formatting. I think the front pages are right! I still can’t figure out how to do sharps and flats properly, but I think every thing else I flagged for details is close.

Still waiting for some ILL sources before I do the details on citations. Don’t know how to proceed on Ch 5, waiting for edits. Hoping to be completely done by the end of the month.

The biggest chunk of writing I did today:


Basic Harmony Terminology

We use solfège syllables to refer to notes in a scale and to help remember melodic relationships. The syllables do, re, mi, fa, so, la, and ti are also sometimes called scale degree numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. (Think of “Do, a deer” from Sound of Music for an example of these syllables in context.) Intervals are the space between these numbers, including the starting number, so the interval from do to mi (1 to 3) is a third – counting all the notes do, re, me = 3.

A triad is the primary type of chord that we deal with in common-practice tonal music. It has three notes, and is built from stacked thirds. There are several qualities of triads, but the two most common are major and minor. In speaking and writing, we usually refer to a triad by a note name and its quality; such as “C major chord” or “A minor triad.”

The root of the chord is the note that gives its functional drive, usually the lowest note when the chord is spaced in a close-packed position. It is important to keep this separate from the bass, which is the lowest sounding note of a chord in a musical context. (There may be some debate of the what the root is for certain chords, particularly in cases where we might describe the root as missing, or if we are using an interval other than thirds to describe a chord.)

A phrase is a unit of musical form with structural harmonic motion ending in a cadence. It is a grouping of musical time that feels like a complete unit. These units can end with an open or closed feeling depending on the type of cadence. In common-practice music, cadences are closely associated with specific chords. The most closed cadence is a called a perfect authentic cadence (PAC), and the most open cadence is called a half cadence (HC). Functional Analysis derives its definitions of function from the chords of the PAC and the feeling of completion that it provides.

The PAC and its feeling of functional closure also helps us identify the key of the music, which circles back and lets us know what scale and solfège to use. When music changes key in the middle of a piece, it is said to modulate; when this is referred to in noun form, it is a modulation.

The common-practice era, was from approximately 1650 to 1900. The music of this time period is referred to as common-practice music. The basic harmonic structure and behavior of chords of most music in western Europe for these years is essentially similar, so common-practice music is said to exhibit common-practice tonality or harmony. This is the type of music which Functional Analysis is primarily intended to describe.

The words voice leading are used to describe the linear connections between chords.

Roman numerals are currently used to label chords in harmonic analysis, with each RN match the scale degree number above.

The word diatonic indicates that all pitches are contained within a key; chromatic pitches are pitches outside of a key or collection. Chromatic pitches are usually notated with a sharp for raised and a flat for lowered. Some useful chromatic solfège syllables are fi – raised fa, le – lowered la, te – lowered ti, ra lowered re, me lowered mi.

Sonata Theory

Much of the Sonata Theory currently in use is based on Hepokoski and Darcy’s book.[1] This is the terminology I am familiar with, and have used when referring to the musical form in the Beethoven analysis in Chapter IV. The following is merely a rough overview, so readers who may be unfamiliar with this terminology can at least have some point of reference.

A movement which is based on a sonata form has three large parts, the exposition, the development, and the recapitulation. The exposition introduces a variety of themes – how many varies on the length and type of sonata, the development usually has some sort of motivic transformations of the opening themes, and the recapitulation restates the exposition’s themes.

The exposition’s themes are often referred to as primary and secondary themes (abb. P and S), merely by their order of arrival in time. There is often a transition from the P to the S theme which helps the music modulate to the new key, and the cadence at the end of the transition is called the medial caesura (MC). These MCs can be many different types of cadences, in either the key of the P theme or the key of the S theme.

[1] James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the late eighteenth-century sonata, Oxford University Press, 2006.

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