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Thread: Rootless Triads in Beethoven Sonata, What?

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    Senior Member caters's Avatar
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    Question Rootless Triads in Beethoven Sonata, What?

    Okay, I came across a bit of a wrinkle in the paper as I analyzed the third movement of Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique. It has to do with this passage:

    Rootless passage.png

    For those of you wanting bar numbers, those are bars 92-94 of the third movement

    The previous passage which had suspensions was very easy for me to analyze. Here is how I analyzed that passage:

    Rooted passage.png

    Again, for those wanting bar numbers, those are bars 88-90 of the third movement.

    Now, it looks as though those harmonies are repeated in bars 92-94. Problem is, in bars 92-94, I see no roots except for the first harmony which is Ab major. This leads to a bit of a paradox. It looks like the harmonies are repeated, but there are no roots which means that it can't be the same harmonies, because there is no such thing as a chord without a root.

    Okay, so what if I do analyze it differently? Here is what I get:

    Unusual progression.png

    As you can see, the first 2 chords are conventional. But then there is a progression from the minor dominant of the mediant to the mediant. Now that is weird, even for Beethoven. I have seen the minor dominant being used a few times in the sonata, but that's just it, the minor dominant of the tonic, not the minor dominant of the mediant. I have even seen Beethoven use this minor dominant when he is in a major key. But it is still unusual to have the minor dominant of the mediant appear right after the subdominant of the tonic.

    That is, if I analyze it differently to avoid the root paradox. What if I don't do that and I take it head on? Here is what it would be analyzed as if I took the root paradox head on:

    Conventional progression.png

    Now that looks just like the previous suspension passage. But I don't see a Bb to confirm ii, an Eb to confirm V, or worse yet, an Ab to confirm I in the last harmony. The Bb, Eb, and Ab are the roots of their respective harmonies and not having the root leads to the paradox of looking like the same harmony, but impossible to be the same harmony.

    So how should I analyze this passage? Should I take the root paradox head on and just ignore the missing root notes? Or should I go with the unconventional v/iii to iii motion? Or should I do neither? If neither, what should I do?

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Ignore the roots and just listen to it in context.

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    Senior Member caters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    Ignore the roots and just listen to it in context.
    Well I ignored the missing roots and just listened to the C section of the third movement of the sonata. And guess what, I heard almost the same counterpoint happening 3 times(first without suspensions, second with suspensions in the bass, and third with suspensions in the treble) and because the roots were already established previously, both when he starts in first species and when he starts to add momentum to the counterpoint, in context, the fact that Beethoven omits the roots on his third go round with the counterpoint doesn't really change much harmonically speaking. Most of this harmonic analysis, I have been able to do via visual alone, but this contrapuntal part of the sonata must be where my ears are absolutely critical for me to decipher the harmony correctly.
    Last edited by caters; Sep-13-2019 at 06:01.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    The answer to your questions about the passages you quoted is in the first statement of the pattern, mm. 79-82. How did you analyze these measures?:

    Screen Shot 2019-09-14 at 3.09.47 PM.png

    Did you find any missing roots there? After you have this passage analyzed, the rest isn't so mysterious.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caters View Post

    So how should I analyze this passage? Should I take the root paradox head on and just ignore the missing root notes? Or should I go with the unconventional v/iii to iii motion? Or should I do neither? If neither, what should I do?
    There is no root paradox, the chord before iii is just vii7. What should you do?: Don't quote grammatically incomplete parts of longer phrases and don't try to analyze them in isolation. You need to analyze at least four measures to make any sense of this passage. The fact that you think any of these two measure fragments can be analyzed without reference to the whole phrase indicates that you are missing something basic in your understanding of how to do analysis.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    This is the danger of analyzing with the eyes and brain instead of the ears and brain.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Rootless Triads in Beethoven Sonata, What?-unusual-progression-png
    .........A dim...Db aug........G7...........C maj 7.......C sus...

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Rootless Triads in Beethoven Sonata, What?-unusual-progression-png
    .........A dim...Db aug........G7...........C maj 7.......C sus...

    Very funny.....
    However, the first chord is surely Amin, the second Dbmaj7 , the 3rd and 4th..correct, well done MR. The last is an incomplete F maj7, or perhaps a secret Dmin9th, the d hiding in another bar, something I know a bit about.

    BTW this analysis assumes a bass and treble clef, if not then we are both wrong. Any takers for analysis in 2 different C clefs?
    Last edited by mikeh375; Sep-24-2019 at 06:41.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Mike and Millions: You've been misled. The OP omitted the key signature (three flats). The underlying progression, quoted in #4 as Beethoven wrote it, is a relatively simple progression by descending fifths in the key of A-flat:

    I-IV-vii-iii-vi-V/V-V


    The rhythmically displaced notes becoming 7ths in the passages you guys addressed (which are later resolved by step) don't alter the underlying progression.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Sep-29-2019 at 05:07.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Yeah, I was dicking around, riffing off MR's post, I guess MR was too. Funnily enough, I only learnt this sonata for the first time earlier this year and don't worry, I did play it in 3 flats... I should have also mentioned an assumption of the key of Cmajor in my 'analyse what you see in the example' idiocy....I still get touched by a cycle of 5ths with 7ths no matter how often they are used, even Vivaldi hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for them.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Sep-29-2019 at 17:02.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    Yeah, I was dicking around, riffing of MR's post, I guess MR was too. Funnily enough, I only learnt this sonata for the first time earlier this year and don't worry, I did play it in 3 flats... I should have also mentioned an assumption of the key of Cmajor in my 'analyse what you see in the example' idiocy....I still get touched by a cycle of 5ths with 7ths no matter how often they are used, even Vivaldi hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for them.
    Got it. Maybe one of us should have mentioned the missing signature explicitly.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Got it. Maybe one of us should have mentioned the missing signature explicitly.
    ...or maybe the mysterious 'caters' should have bothered to post it correctly. My post was a joke, anyway, so the key doesn't matter.

    To respond to Ed, I'm not 'misled' because of my joking reply to caters' negligence.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    ...or maybe the mysterious 'caters' should have bothered to post it correctly. My post was a joke, anyway, so the key doesn't matter.

    To respond to Ed, I'm not 'misled' because of my joking reply to caters' negligence.
    Yes. I should have caught the sarcasm in your and Mike's analysis. In retrospect it's obvious.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Anything can be analyzed any way, if there is no key specified. Each note has 12 possibilities. Doesn't it?
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Sep-29-2019 at 20:28.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Anything can be analyzed any way, if there is no key specified. Each note has 12 possibilities. Doesn't it?
    Not really, even if we're considering only the two measure fragments quoted by Caters. It is obviously a CP period work. Knowing this, the sequence by 5ths and the single D-flat are enough to narrow the options. And if we see the whole four measure passage I quoted in #4, arriving at the original key signature should be easy. The D-flats alone would be enough to specify it for people with the right knowledge and training.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Sep-29-2019 at 22:41.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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