Musical Form and Phrase Structure

  • 10.3: Christoph Neidhöfer, “Directionality in Twelve-Tone Composition” - explores how one 12-tone composer, Julius Schloss, strategically arranged his serial materials to invoke tonal procedures like cadences and phrase structures; suitable for post-tonal music theory courses as well as classes addressing phrase structure, tonal direction, and cadence

  • 10.1: L. Poundie Burstein with Quynh Nguyen and Jennifer Roderer, “The Best Laid Plans . . . and Others: An 18th-Century Compositional Outline” - explores how an 18th-century music theorist attempted to distinguish essential material from elaboration in a contemporary composition; would be suitable for the study of phrase structure and small forms, for considering melodic construction, and for exploring the history of music analysis

  • 9.4: Nate Mitchell, “Variations on a Theme by K.K. Slider: Variation Sets and the Hourly Music of Animal Crossing: New Horizons” - treats the soundtrack of Animal Crossing: New Horizons as a modern example of theme and variations form; suitable for introducing theme and variations at all levels

  • 8.3: Nicholas Shea, “The Feel of the Guitar in Popular Music Performance” – shows how fretboard gestures help to demarcate musical form in some popular song; provides an analytical framework rooted in popular music performance practice rather than “traditional” music theory

  • 7.1: Stephanie Probst, “Music Appreciation Through Animation: Percy Scholes’s ‘AudioGraphic’ Piano Rolls” – discusses piano rolls with music-analytical overlay; includes a visual analysis of Bach’s B-flat major fugue from WTC I; suitable for introducing students to different visual models for analyzing form and for introducing fugue

  • 7.4: Michael Buchler, “I Don’t Care if I Never Get Back: Optimism and Ascent in ‘Take Me Out to The Ball Game’” – analyzes the melodic structure and phrase structure of the verse of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” to contextualize the melodic ascent of the better-known chorus; suitable for students at all levels learning about cadences, phrase structure, and melodic norms, as well as for advanced students of linear analysis

  • 7.6: Megan Lavengood, “‘Oops!…I Did It Again’: The Complement Chorus in Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and *NSYNC” – introduces a chorus where two melodic lines introduced earlier in the song are set in counterpoint with one another; suitable for students at all levels learning about pop music form, counterpoint, and melodic construction; introduces hocket

  • 6.2: Brian Edward Jarvis and John Peterson, “Detour or Bridge? Contrasting Sections and Storytelling in Musical Theater” – explores how formal interruptions (“detours”) in musical theater do and don’t behave like bridges; suitable for students at all levels discussing classical phrase types as well as larger formal types and narrative storytelling

  • 6.3: Daniel Ketter, “Discovering Essential Voices in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Solo Instrumental Suite Movements” – suitable for teaching binary form (especially differences between Baroque and Classical binary form), paired with Brody, “Teaching Bach’s Binary Forms” (see bibliography); discusses how Bach implies distinct voices in his solo instrumental works; suitable for advanced students studying linear analysis (pairs well with Rothstein, “on Implied Tones”); see also and discussion in Headlam, “Music Informance: Performance for the Information Age” in the Oxford Handbook of Public Music Theory

  • 6.4: Alyssa Barna, “The Dance Chorus in Recent Top-40 Music” – describes a new formal module in pop music influenced by EDM production techniques; suitable for students learning about musical form, the impact of timbre/production on musical experience, and embodiment

  • 3.1: L. Poundie Burstein with Quynh Nguyen, “Parenthetic Aside in a 1789 Analysis of Mozart’s K. 284” – introduces a historically informed way to understand the two-part exposition (the exposition with the secondary theme) in a Classical sonata form; suitable for upper-level music students and students composing a Classical-style sonata first movement; discusses performance implications of treating the secondary theme as a “middle passage”

  • 2.1: Harald Krebs, “The Influence of Clara Schumann’s Lieder on Declamation in Robert Schumann’s Late Songs” – This video could be used to teach several rhythm and meter topics. The main focus of the video is on the differences between poetic rhythm and Schumann’s music-metrically irregular settings of these text-metrically regular poems. Teaching topics that may come up include Lerdahl/Jackendoff dot arrays, hypermetric numberings, and recompositional analysis; the video could also be used to talk about text-music relationships (especially in terms of expressive meaning), or in a discussion of historical questions about influence.

  • 2.2–2.3: Steven Reale, “Variations on a Theme by a Rogue A.I.: Music, Gameplay, and Storytelling in Portal 2” (Part 1 and Part 2) – This 2-part video series could be used to teach aspects of musical meaning, music fundamentals, and musical form in video game music. The first video explores the relationship between the musical score and characterization. Teaching topics include textural analysis (arpeggiated textures versus block chords), cadences (plagal versus authentic), voice-leading (conjunct vs. disjunct), collections (hexatonic & octatonic), triadic qualities (major, minor, and augmented), triadic inversion (major chords invert to minor chords, augmented chords invert to augmented chords), and musical meaning. The second video discusses musical variation techniques and connects them to gameplay. Teaching topics include musical form & analysis, developing variations, and musical parameters which are developed within the music of this video game, such as synthesizer timbres, chord qualities, and harmonic rhythm; musical meaning could also be addressed.

  • 1.1: Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, “Repetition and Musicality” – Professor Elizabeth H. Margulis explains how cognitive science can illuminate our understanding of the relationship between musicality and one of its essential, yet often neglected features: repetition. Drawing from her research and the work of others (including Deutsch et al. 2011), Margulis shares several key discoveries—that arbitrary audio excerpts begin to sound like music when the excerpts are looped; that exact, or verbatim, repetitions encourage tapping, moving, and singing (motions that listeners associate with musicality); and that temporal scopes can change when passages repeat. This video is suitable for students at all levels who would like to learn more about the relationship between cognitive science and music, and about the role that repetition plays in making audio phenomena sound musical. Further reading: Margulis, On Repeat: How Music Plays The Mind (Oxford University Press 2013).

  • 1.2: Peter Schubert, “Contrapuntal Thinking in Haydn” – Professor Peter Schubert explores contrapuntal thinking in an unexpected “place,” the first theme group of the last movement from Haydn’s Symphony No. 99 in E-flat Major (1793). He demonstrates how melodic fragments from the theme and accompaniment are repositioned in relation to one another, sounding not only above or below in invertible counterpoint but also before and after. Schubert reveals that the latter two positions (before and after) produce longer melodic lines. This video is suitable for students at all levels who would like to learn more about contrapuntal thinking in music of the high classical style. For more on contrapuntal thinking, see the author’s companion videos “Contrapuntal Thinking in Marenzio” and “Contrapuntal Thinking in Brahms”; videos on improvising counterpoint; and two textbooks, Modal Counterpoint: Renaissance Style, 2nd. ed. (Oxford University Press, 2007), and Baroque Counterpoint (co-authored with Christoph Neidhöfer), revised and expanded ed. (SUNY Press, forthcoming in Nov. 2023).

  • 1.3: Edward Klorman, “Multiple Agency in Mozart’s Chamber Music” – Professor Edward Klorman emphasizes how historical sources, including musical scores, can draw our attention to the social interplay among individual performers, or “personas enacted by the individual players” (4:38–41), within string quartets. Using an excerpt from the last movement of Mozart’s String Quartet in G Major, K. 387 (1782), as an example, Klorman illustrates his concept of “multiple agency,” a perspective that “celebrates the creative role of performers” and that yields “vivid analytical interpretations that can be masked by conventional, omniscient vantage points” (4:10–28). This video is suitable for students at all levels who would like to learn more about the socio-historical and -cultural dimensions of composition and performance. Basic knowledge of musical form and tonality are welcome but not necessary. For further reading, please see the author’s monograph Mozart’s Music of Friends: Social Interplay in the Chamber Works (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and Edward T. Cone’s The Composer’s Voice (University of California Press, 1974).


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