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Thread: Music Form Analysis

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    Default Music Form Analysis

    I took a music appreciation class about 6 years ago, and one of the parts I really enjoyed was that our book outlined popular pieces and their forms (such as the sonata form in Mozarts 40). The book would highlight the exposition themes, if it repeats, how the development starts etc etc...I'm wondering, is there another book that has detailed analysis of various pieces and forms like that?

    I have numerous theory books I study, but I think I need help in applying it (music forms). Listening and saying "ohh, that measure is apart of theme 1 too" or "that's the bridge," seems like it takes practice, and when you don't have a resource there to say "that's correct" it's kinda daunting.

    For example, I'm looking at Mozarts Piano Sonata 1 (K. 279), and while the development seems like it's pretty easy to spot (2:23?), ...what's the exposition doing!?! Is that first 4 measures a "theme" ..or does the theme start at 8 seconds in, with the 16th notes with the left hand? I have the sheet music, and I'm looking at this youtube video of it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVwnC9MOk8U

    It would be really great if someone starts a week music form analysis series .

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    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    It's part of the theme.

    1) The opening bars present integral motivic elements: the arpeggio forms an integral part of the theme, as can be heard later in the exposition of this theme. If you think away the appogiatura notes, it also contains the simple scale
    2) The first four measures are needed for the 4+4-2+2-1+1-elimination phrase structure

    also note how in bar 14 (elimination stage of the phrase), the same motif is used as in the bar 2 plagal cadence.

    3) elements of these 1st 4 measure can be found in the developement, i.e. that accompanying motif

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    Senior Member Johnny's Avatar
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    The idea of a music appreciation class seems daft to me. If you have functioning ears, that's all you need. Maybe I'd change my mind if I knew more about it. What exactly does such a class involve? I suppose I can see why people may like to dissect pieces of music and discuss how they are constructed. But I don't think knowing more about this would affect which pieces I enjoy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny View Post
    The idea of a music appreciation class seems daft to me. If you have functioning ears, that's all you need. Maybe I'd change my mind if I knew more about it. What exactly does such a class involve? I suppose I can see why people may like to dissect pieces of music and discuss how they are constructed. But I don't think knowing more about this would affect which pieces I enjoy.
    I couldn't disagree more. It was a music appreciation class that got me into classical music at all, and that helped me see what sort of depth was there. Not everyone cares for analysis, of course, but things like Andras Schiff's lectures on the Beethoven sonatas helped my appreciation immensely.

    Yes, the sound stands on its own, but there's a lot of interesting stuff to learn!

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    I think that may be the first internet disagreement that did not resort to name calling!

    :shakeshand:

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Buy a copy of the score and decide for yourself!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny View Post
    The idea of a music appreciation class seems daft to me. If you have functioning ears, that's all you need. Maybe I'd change my mind if I knew more about it. What exactly does such a class involve? I suppose I can see why people may like to dissect pieces of music and discuss how they are constructed. But I don't think knowing more about this would affect which pieces I enjoy.
    Another ridiculous comment. Are you a comedian?

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    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    For me, form is the least important aspect of music to study. That is if you intend on writing your own music. Sure, if you want to write in an older style then go ahead and learn about motive development, sonata and rondo forms, binary and ternary etc. I think harmony, counterpoint and orchestration are more helpful though.

    It's all well and good to see how the composer uses fragment of the theme here or a retrograde inversion of the theme there or a stretto or episode occurs here, but it only tells you what that particular composer liked to do and not what you should do.

    This my opinion of course, and I always seem more interested in the microscopic(?) aspects of a composition compared to the macroscopic(?). If that makes sense.

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    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Argus View Post
    For me, form is the least important aspect of music to study. That is if you intend on writing your own music. Sure, if you want to write in an older style then go ahead and learn about motive development, sonata and rondo forms, binary and ternary etc. I think harmony, counterpoint and orchestration are more helpful though.

    It's all well and good to see how the composer uses fragment of the theme here or a retrograde inversion of the theme there or a stretto or episode occurs here, but it only tells you what that particular composer liked to do and not what you should do.
    Wrong. Form analysis will help you in many aspects of playing. How can you give a coherent preformance of a work if you randomly change phrasing, articulation and what not on each whim. Formal analysis helps the preform recognise what is actually in the piece, not what he thinks is written.

    Furthermore, a preformer will never be able to expose big tension arcs if they don't know they're in the piece. A sound knowledge of the form and themes of a piece will help the preformer achieve a superior subtlety, that the audience will instinctively experience.

    It's also a great tool for by-heart playing.

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    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasa View Post
    Wrong. Form analysis will help you in many aspects of playing. How can you give a coherent preformance of a work if you randomly change phrasing, articulation and what not on each whim. Formal analysis helps the preform recognise what is actually in the piece, not what he thinks is written.

    Furthermore, a preformer will never be able to expose big tension arcs if they don't know they're in the piece. A sound knowledge of the form and themes of a piece will help the preformer achieve a superior subtlety, that the audience will instinctively experience.

    It's also a great tool for by-heart playing.
    I'll assume you meant performer when you wrote preformer, unless that's something I'm unaware of.

    I was speaking from a composer viewpoint in analysing the works of the masters to help their own compositional process. By sticking to strict forms the composer can enhance focus of musical ideas in a piece but also limits his availability of change or surprise. It seems to me that the kind of music that gets bashed in here (pop, hip-hop etc) has the more consistent forms (verse, chorus, verse etc) whereas more respected music (contemporary classical, jazz etc) has turned away from any kind of set forms that are common amongst all artists.

    Even from a performer viewpoint, I can't see how rigorously analysing the form is any huge help over listening to a variety of previous performances whilst reading the sheet. If you enjoy it and benefit somehow from it, then go ahead but I don't think it's integral. As long as you understand the nature of the forms and that they exist in certain works, I don't think a detailed analysis is that necessary.

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    Senior Member Johnny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Opal View Post
    Another ridiculous comment. Are you a comedian?


    Care to explain to me what's ridiculous?

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    Oh no, I just realized the link I posted goes to the second movement, rather than the first.

    It should of been:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6_H7pR12KU

    I'm really sorry! But it looks like you did the first movement anyway Rasa, right?

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    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    Yeah, first movement. didn't even watch the video, but assumed it was the 1st from the description you gave ;-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasa View Post
    It's part of the theme.

    1) The opening bars present integral motivic elements: the arpeggio forms an integral part of the theme, as can be heard later in the exposition of this theme. If you think away the appogiatura notes, it also contains the simple scale
    2) The first four measures are needed for the 4+4-2+2-1+1-elimination phrase structure

    also note how in bar 14 (elimination stage of the phrase), the same motif is used as in the bar 2 plagal cadence.

    3) elements of these 1st 4 measure can be found in the developement, i.e. that accompanying motif

    1. I was under the impression that a theme was a short melody that could be separated and stand on its own, which is how I was looking at the score and getting confused. I'm noticing there's a quarter rest in measure 16 that ends on a Gmaj (going from CMaj). Would that be an imperfect cadence (I-V)? And the end of theme 1...so measure 17 onward would be theme 2...?

    2. I've never heard of the elimination phrase structure, is that anything specific? I could follow that the measures in 4+4+2+2+1+1 pattern seem to fit together, is there a relevance to that though? I'm attempting to analyze measure 14 in an attempt to understand what you mean. I'm getting: C7, F, G, C G - is that right? Then measure 15 starts the 16th notes in the treble and 8th notes in the bass.

    I've just begun learning cadences and nonchord tones, so...the plagal cadence is IV - I , but there's an 8th note of D + B (Gmaj? Why not bdim, the f is preceding it?). Would that Gmaj 8th note prevent it from being a plagal cadence?

    3. I really haven't looked at all in the development yet. I notice the start is very similar to the first four bars, just in minor.

    Thanks for all your help!!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny View Post


    Care to explain to me what's ridiculous?
    I think he got offended that there was no name-calling

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