A Structural Examination of Tonality, Vocabulary, Texture,
Sonorities, and Time Organization in Western Art Music



Chapter 29. Review and Expansion

Chapter 30. Harmonic and Melodic Patterns
Chapter 31. The 123's of Schenkerian Analysis

The essential organization is around a single pitch, the tonic, which provides a home base to the ear. All other pitches work to establish the pre-eminence of tonic. Furthermore, an organization of phrases (generally made up of 4, 8, or 16 measures) expand the establishment of tonic; all phrases end with a cadence which confirms this sense of tonic.

In a real way, the topic of each of the first 28 chapters is about tonality. The concepts of keys, scales, cadences, Roman numerals, and harmonic structure are based on the precept that one pitch is more important than any other pitch. Its importance in Western Common Practice Period music cannot be emphasized enough.

One of the important extensions of this idea is with the study of tonicizations and modulations, where the location of tonic can shift, either momentarily or for some extended period of time. The strength of tonic, however, never changes through these processes; it still must be the place where one senses stability at any particular point in time.


    Continuing discussion of phrase and phrase design must include reference to the concept of FORM. As presented in Chapter 1 and Chapter 17, phrases combine to make periods, which then combine into sections, and then pieces, or movements (self-contained musical compositions which are grouped to make larger compositions). Pieces (and movements) from the Common Practice Period are cast into standard shapes.

    Uppercase letters (A) refer to periods or larger groups of phrases to create sections; lowercase letters (a) refer to simple phrases.

    1. Song forms

      In spite of the name, these forms apply to both instrumental and vocal music.

      STROPHIC FORM repetition of the same melody two or more times A A A... Amazing Grace
      BAR FORM repetition of two melodies followed by a contrasting melody a a b Star Spangled Banner
      BALLAD FORM repetition of two melodies followed by a contrasting melody,
      which is then followed by the first melody (or similar version)
      a a b a Over the Rainbow

    2. Binary form

      Binary form may be either sectional (first section ends with an authentic cadence in the global key) or continuous (any other cadence at the end of the first section).

      SIMPLE BINARY FORM two independent, self-contained sections A A' (or) A B Rameau: Minuet
      [MA #170]
      ROUNDED BINARY FORM two independent, self-contained sections with opening
      material repeated (either exact or similar) at the end
      A BA' Schubert: Andantino
      [MA #216]

      Learn more about binary form

      One of the most important developments from rounded binary is SONATA FORM. It is occasionally confused with ternary form (next section) due to the fact that it contains three parts:

      • EXPOSITION: presentation of two (sometimes more) melodic groups, the second of which modulates to a different key
      • DEVELOPMENT: exploration and manipulation of the melodic groups
      • RECAPITULATION: return of the melodic groups, but ending in the global key

      The development and recapitulation are continuous and welded together, like the second section of rounded binary (many composers show this by repeating the two parts as a single section). The first movement (sometimes several movements) of most Common Practice Period symphonies, sonatas, and concerti are in sonata form.

    3. Ternary form

      SIMPLE TERNARY FORM three independent, self-contained sections A B A Chopin: Mazurka
      [MA #353]
      COMPOUND TERNARY FORM two independent, self-contained pieces with the first
      piece repeated after the second
      A B A Mozart: Minuet and Trio
      [MA #360]

      Learn more about ternary form

    4. Chain forms

      DANCE CHAINS a succession of small dances that are loosely connected A B C D... Strauss: Blue Danube Waltzes
      RITORNELLO a section that occurs and recurs many times between other
      sections that are frequently of greater melodic importance
      a B a C a... Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 6
      [first movement]
      RONDO a section that occurs and recurs many times between other
      sections that are frequently of lesser melodic importance
      A b A c A... Mozart: Allegretto grazioso
      [MA #364, p.326]


      One should be careful to separate the concept of FORM from the concept of PROCESS. Binary is a form, but counterpoint is a process that can assume any form. Some important compositional processes are given below.

      1. Imitative processes

        IMITATION stems from polyphony, and is melodic material in one voice repeating in a second voice (it can be exact or approximate), overlapping at a short specific time interval.

        CANON a leading voice (the dux) presents a melody and a following voice (the comes) imitates the same melodic material as the leader continues on Hindemith: Ludus Tonalis
        [MA #465]
        INVENTION short compositions that utilze free imitation throughout, often in just two or three voices Bach: Inventions No. 4 and 13
        [MA #372 and #373]
        Listen to a humorous description on YouTube.
        compositions that utilize free imitation throughout, with a clearly delineated melody (the subject), often paired with a modified subject (the answer); statements of the subject are separated by episodes Bach: Fugues
        [MA #375 and #376]

      2. Variation processes

        VARIATION stems from heterophony, and is melodic material that is repeated with modification without changing the fundamental structure of the original. Variation is inevitably presented in chain forms.

        CHARACTER VARIATIONS a complete, self-contained melodic statement followed by other complete, self-contained statements with modifications and alterations without changing the basic structure of the first Beethoven: Sieben Variationen on "God Save the King"
        [MA #359]
        CONTINUOUS VARIATIONS a melodic statement followed with free modifications and alterations but without clear divisions Beethoven: 32 Variations in C Minor
        on-going musical statements over a repeated melodic or harmonic pattern Pachelbel: Kanon
        (also a good example of canon)

        Passacaglia and chaconne originated as two separate processes, but have merged over the centuries and are now interchangeable.


      Much music from the Common Practice Period is presented in groups, or movements. Each movement is cast in the forms and processes above, and they in turn shape larger works. Some important composite forms are given below.

      INSTRUMENTAL: Ballet Chamber music Concerto Divertimento Serenade Sonata Suite Symphony
      VOCAL: Cantata Mass Motet Opera Oratorio Requiem Passion Song cycle

    29.2 VOCABULARY:
    The essential vocabulary is a diatonic pattern of seven stepwise pitches called major and minor scales. Chromatic pitches, the remaining five, can be used, but only to enhance the diatonic ones.

    Needless to say, musical vocabulary was greatly expanded in the first 28 chapters, but the foundation of this vocabulary still remains fairly simple: there are 12 basic pitch classes, which create a finite number of specific intervals, and there are two basic scale forms (major and minor), which can express a finite number of key signatures. Species counterpoint, Roman numeral analysis, and structural analysis provide many new terms, but the ideas behind them remain the same.

    The most important expansion of this vocabulary was the introduction of chromatic pitches with tonicizations and modulations. These are used to emphasize the diatonic pitches, which in turn are used to emphasize tonic. Chapters 32-37 of this text will likewise greatly expand vocabulary, accounting for even more chromatic motions.

    29.3 TEXTURE:
    The essential texture is created with counterpoint, which is two or more simultaneous individual and independent lines, each of which confirms the pre-eminence of tonic and utilizes the vocabulary of a major or minor scale.

    To a large extent, previous chapters have represented the basic texture of the Common Practice Period with the 4-part (SATB) counterpoint, which is, in fact, the origin of the Western style. However, as seen in many analysis examples, this texture can be highly modified.

    As music history made a fundamental shift from vocal music to instrumental music (during the Renaissance), composers began to adapt the straight-forward concepts of counterpoint to a much more free texture. This is most readily seen in keyboard music, where the concept of independent voices is influenced by the limitation of having only ten fingers.

    It is not always possible to find distinct independent voices in a piece of keyboard music. For example, in the following excerpt, the inner voices come and go freely:

    As texture increases in density, music usually becomes louder, and as it decreases, softer, which makes an important connection between texture and dynamics.

    It is possible to create interesting textures in a melodic line by constructing it out of several simpler lines (as seen in Chapter 12 with figuration). This is called a POLYPHONIC MELODY: two simple lines in counterpoint combine to create a more complex line.

    The process can also be viewed in reverse, by taking a complex line and reducing it to simpler contrapuntal components:

    29.4 SONORITIES:
    The essential sonority (chord) is consonant and is a group of three notes (a triad) arranged in thirds (tertian). Dissonance is used, which could be a group of four notes arranged in thirds (a tertian tetrad) or non-chordal embellishments (passing and neighboring tones, suspensions, and pedals, among others). All dissonances are required to resolve.

    Although the status quo in Western music is consonance, dissonance became increasingly important as the Common Practice Period evolved. Throughout the nineteenth century, composers added more and more dissonance and increasingly prolonged its resolution. Eventually, the resolutions never happen at all, one important signal that the Common Practice Period had ended.

    The simple concept of the triad soon became a tetrad, adding the dissonance of a 7th (which is required to resolve). It was a short step to add another 3rd on top, creating the pentad of a NINTH CHORD.

    Ninth chords are often misunderstood. They are relatively rare in the Common Practice Period, and are almost exclusive to the dominant harmony (V9 = ^5 - ^7 - ^2 - ^4 - ^6). Secondly, the pitch that appears to be the 9th is frequently a non-chord tone such as an appoggiature or suspension. A true dominant ninth must maintain the dissonant ^6 throughout the complete harmony and resolve down by step to ^5 in the following tonic.

    Some texts recognize the concept of eleventh chords (hexads) and thirteenth chords (heptads), created by continuing to stack more 3rds on top of tetrads and pentads. These two sonority types are so exceedingly rare in the Common Practice Period (if they even truly exist as independent chords) that no extra explanation will be made for them. They are more commonly known in 20th century music as "added 4th chords" and "added 6th chords".

    Learn more about these extended tertian sonorities

    Subsequent chapters will expand the concept of sonority even more.

    The essential time organization is based on a consistent and unchanging beat. These beats organize into 2, 3, or 4 essential pulses per measure, with the first beat always the strongest. Each beat can sub-divide into two parts (simple meters) or three parts (compound meters).

    In the perfect world of music theory, music is black and white. Meters are either simple or compound, and the regular beat structure is always 2, 3, and 4 pulses per measure, with a proper sense of downbeats and upbeats.

    Fortunately, it is not a perfect world and music is much more colorful than black and white. Time organization is more fluid and interesting than it first appears. Composers have always explored devices that defy a single approach to time.

    1. Triplets and duplets

      Although simple meters express the division of the beat into two parts, a triplet may be added to divide it into three. Compound meters express the beat division into three parts, but duplets can divide it into two. As these features are explored, the distinction between simple and compound is blurred.

    2. Polyrhythms

      When two different subdivisions are performed simultaneously, such as a simple division juxtaposed to a compound one, a POLYRHYTHM is formed.

    3. Syncopation

      As mentioned in Chapter 5, SYNCOPATION is created when agogic accents are not aligned with downbeats. While this is often discussed with jazz and popular music, it has been a vital part of music history for centuries. It provides great variety and insistent drive to music.

    4. Hemiola

      It is possible to find a metric change from triple meter to duple meter in Baroque music, just before cadences, to slow the harmonic rhythm at the phrase end. This is called a HEMIOLA. These composers would never actually change the meter signature, but embedded it into the music instead, as in the last three measures in the example below.

    5. Cross rhythms

      A CROSS RHYTHM is similar to the hemiola and is often confused with it. It is an alteration of the beat structure that momentarily changes the location of the strong beats, as in measure 3 below.



    Describe the phrase design and provide a Roman numeral and structural analysis for the following pieces in Music for Analysis, and describe the form:

    1. Beethoven: Minuet [#165, CD track #22]
    2. Grieg.: Norsk [#172] Listen to a performance
    3. Handel: Suite XVI [#192]
    4. Beethoven: Sonatina in F Major [#239, CD track #54]
    5. J. Strauss: Artist's Life Waltzes, op. 316, no3 [#326, CD track #85]


    Add soprano, alto, and tenor lines to this figured bass, then provide a Roman numeral and structural analysis:

    To prepare this writing assignment properly, use the notation guidelines appendix, located at Basic Principles of Music Notation, Semester III.

    Links to chapters in this unit:
    Chapter 30. Harmonic and Melodic Patterns
    Chapter 31. The 123's of Schenkerian Analysis

    Link to previous unit: THE ABC's OF CHORALE SETTING

    Link to next unit: CHROMATIC PROCEDURES II: Modal Mixtures

    Copyright 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.

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