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Music 202: Techniques for Analysis of Tonal and Post-Tonal Music

[ Section 01 (41896) ]

Instructor:  Ben Leeds Carson — blc at ucsc dot edu 

Meetings: Music Center 245 on Mondays, 4:00 — 7:00 PM

Office hours: Mondays 10-11:30 AM, or by appointment

Office: Music Center 148 (on the lower floor, take a right at the bottom of the stairs)

Office phone:  9-5581 (I do not check voicemail frequently!)  



Catalogue Description:

 Encompasses various forms of linear analysis, set theory, and selected topics in current analytical practice. Offered in alternate academic years.

Complete Description: 

 This course offers three techniques (see below), and some variants on them, in the analysis of modern Western music literature^1, focusing on music from the early 19th century to the mid-to-late 20th century.

Analysis—derived from Greek ana- (“back” or “away”) lysis (“loosening”), thus “to loosen up” or “to release from entanglement”—refers to any investigation that involves separating-out the parts of a perceived whole, and considering their relationships to eachother.^1

This course complements Music 201 (History of Theory), which surveys music theory from ancient Babylonian and Chinese texts through Indian and European composition manuals of the 18th century. By contrast, this course concentrates on “modern” music literature, that is, tonal idioms associated with the rise of a musically literate middle class in 19th century Europe and its colonies, and the “art” and “popular” musics that developed from that foundation.^2 This approximately 150-year period, though, is too broad, and we’ll narrow it further by concentrating on three issues: tonal coherence, motivic coherence, and pitch-class/beat-class set (pc set) coherence.

Tonal coherence is the principle that what binds a work together in Beetoven’s time (roughly) are harmonic progressions that traverse closely related keys—and that do so according to contrapuntal features like cadences and elaborations. We’ll make use of long-range counterpoint (derived from part of Schenker’s theory) to explore that principle, and we’ll briefly assess some alternative approaches.

Motivic coherence is the simpler idea that music, including some highly chromatic music (music that might lack tonal coherence) can be held together by what Carl Dahlhaus calls a compositional economy, in which larger forms arise from a minimum of motivic materials. A motivic orientation to the unity of musical forms is nearly household parlance in discussions of Berlioz and Wagner; a step along the way from what is conventionally “absolute music” toward a culture of visceral musical pleasure: “structure” in late-19th-c. music sometimes arises not through tonal procedures but through invocation and aural connection between immediate sonic experiences, signals that connect and structure experience concretely and iconically, i.e. by how they resemble one another or how they form a dramatic rhetoric in reference to the extramusical.

Pc-set coherence will offer us an introduction to revolutionary and emancipatory conceptions of pitch and time that, in T. W. Adorno’s view, the historical consequence the tension between tonal coherence and its alternatives in subject and musical idea. Because intervals labeled by numbers are abstract values, they’re ideal schema in which to understand music that resists the subordinations of modal and tonal organization, but offers a basis for order uncoupled from small-scale Gestalts. These methods, in turn, offer a foundation for “serial” organization that sets forth one of two overarching polemics of ‘art’ music in mid-20th-c. American and European composers.

The best music analyses are descriptions of what someone hears, and suggestions of what can be heard, in music. The music analyses you complete in this course will attempt to offer insight into the parts of musical experience—not just chunks of time filled with chords and phrases, but also perceptual orientations, modes of listening—as they relate to some kind of whole piece or performance, or maybe (even/just) a whole musical life. I hope this course will also accomplish something for you in your sense of a genealogy of musical ideas that cradle some of our own dialogues and impulses as music-listeners and music-makers today.


^1. A little blogging on definitions of, and reminders about, common terms for intellectual endeavors: analysis/synthesis, theory/practice, theory/observation, and practice/criticism, and even a little bit about ideology.

^2. “Modern Western music literature”, in this case, refers to musics in “modernity” (not to be confused with modernism); for our purposes, defined by the rise of literate middle-class consumers who were consumers of sheet music in the 1800s, and who participated in cultures of notated “popular” and “art” music in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Until the rise of the Third Reich in the 1930s, composers ranging from Wagner to Offenbach, and from Puccini to Duke Ellington, typically saw art and popular music as part of a continuum, rather than as the two separate streams that structure our thinking today. All of the repertoire arises in “Western” notation, and as such reflects a potentially “colonizing” and subjugating force when it occurs in non-European musics. However, popular culture doesn’t belong to the West. (Resist any assumption that musical traditions of Latin America, East Asia, the Middle East, etc. are caught between Western influence and an “authentic” pre-modern past; rather, their traditions are living, and can retain that life in the face of foriegn influence just as readily as Western tradition can.)


Learning Outcomes:

1.          Clarify and distinguish aspects of harmonic and contrapuntal listening that are evident and prevalent in 19th-century European (“art” and “popular”) music literature.
2.          Grasp the basics of linear and voice-structure analysis, and an introduction to Schenkerian Analysis, as a set of tools common to contemporary scholarly analysis of tonal music.
3.          Grasp the basics of set-theoretic approaches to post-tonal music.

4.       Explore and challenge conventional approaches to music analysis as a means of introspection about musical experience.

Assignment format:

Except where a diagram specifically benefits from letter-orientation, please use landscape-oriented staves:

4-system sheet for “surface” graphs of complete works [REVISED 1/21/18]. These staves give you a maximum ability to diagram 8-12 bars of relativey dense music, or 16 bars of simpler music, on a single system without line breaks.

3-system sheet for sketching and drafting graphs when it is not necessary to show the continuity of a longer musical sentence.

2-system sheet with double-grand-staff systems, for foreground and middleground, or middleground and background graphs. Use these later in the quarter when you wish to show the complex surface of a piece (normally on the bottom grand staff), in parallel with a simpler description of structure, unencumbered by detail (normally on the top staff).

Coursework & evaluation:

Participants in the seminar are expected on a weekly basis to prepare materials for submission or quesitons for discussion, and materials for formal presentation approximately every two weeks. We will establish, impromptu, in each week, which seminarians are slated to present for discussion in the following week. Those slated for discussion are required to bring recordings, scores, and 4-5 photocopies of their graphs or written work, as visual aids to their presentation. Many of the assignments in the course are “accumulative,” that is, your success in the course depends on your ability in one assignment to respond to feedback on the last.

Analysis, in this course, consists of the use of established symbols and conventions of representation, to express a way of hearing a musical work. Your grade in the course will be a reflection of your ability to express such a way of hearing imaginatively, persuasively, and economically. Students will also submit two full analyses, one exhibiting tonal principles and the second exhibiting post-tonal principles, and will choose one of those two projects as the foundation for a more thoroughly developed final project.

1/4 of the grade will reflect your abilities in week-to-week exercises and analysis drafts

1/6 will reflect the strength and preparedness of your in-class discussion

1/3 will reflect your success in the two preliminary analyses (one tonal and one post-tonal)

1/4 will reflect the success of your final project.

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