Summary of Standard Analytical Procedure
- Background Research (Read literature about the following topics)
- the composer
- the time and place of composition
- the work itself
- the work's place in the composer's output
- the work's relationship to other composers' works
- any extramusical references made in the work
- other pertinent information
- Listen to the piece many times with the score (as many times as necessary for you to be able to sing along with the piece. By the time you are finished analyzing the piece, you should be able to sing your way through the entire piece without the help of a recording.)
- Listen to the piece again several times after each of the steps given below to make sure your analysis is correct and complete
- Segmenting of Motives and Themes
- Identify the primary melodic material of the piece.
- Copy out all themes and motives on separate pieces of manuscript paper.
- Below each melodic fragment, copy out all subsequent occurrences of each melodic idea that are different in some way from the original. Label all excerpted melodic segments with the measure numbers where they can be found in the piece.
- If a particular developmental technique describes the melodic differences in the recurrences, label them appropriately.
- If the differences among recurrences of a theme or motive are harmonic (the theme is accompanied by different chords), label each fragment with its Roman-numeral (and figured bass) analysis. If they are all the same harmonically, then only label the original motive or theme with Roman numerals.
- Harmonic Analysis
- Label every vertical sonority in the piece with a Roman numeral and figured bass symbols.
- Differentiate between tonicization (use of secondary dominants) and modulation (use of secondary key areas). A piece modulates when it does not return directly to the tonic key. In other words, the key must persist for at least an entire phrase, or the music must then move to yet another key other than tonic.
- If any harmony seems to be prolonged over the course of the music by contrapuntal voice motion, this can be indicated by putting the intermediate Roman numerals in parentheses, or possibly removing them (leaving only figured bass symbols for the intervening material).
- Label all cadences by their key and type (PAC, IAC, HC, THC, DC, PC).
- Phrase Structure Analysis
- The phrase is the smallest musical unit that ends with a cadence. Once cadences have been marked in the music, the phrase structure can be analyzed. The types of phrase structures are:
- A period exhibits an antecedent - consequent relationship between two phrases. The second cadence must be stronger than the first (usually HC then AC).
- Phrase Group
- Any non-periodic phrase structure that seems to go together as a unit is a phrase group of some kind.
- Any extended passage of music that exhibits no cadential activity can be called a section. (It's too long to be a single phrase of the type that would combine with other phrases to form periodic structures.)
- Sections are also the larger portions of a work, such as halves of a binary form or the three parts in a ternary form.
- Segmentation of Larger Formal Divisions
- The larger formal divisions of a piece will usually be set off by more than one of the following:
- double bars,
- repeat signs,
- a key change, or
- strong cadential activity,
- the return of—or a significant divergence from—primary thematic material.
- It is important to determine whether the large section is tonally closed or open.
- A section is closed only if it ends with an authentic (or very rarely plagal) cadence in the original key.
- Accordingly, an open section ends with either a half cadence, a cadence that tonicizes another key (usually the dominant or relative key), or a modulation to a new key area. (Note that the distinction here between tonicized cadence and modulation involves the music after the cadence that marks the end of the section.)
- In reprise forms (rondo) an open section may sometimes blend in with a transitional section, with no obvious cadence until the end of the transition (or occasionally even until the next closed section).
- Categorization with Regard to Larger Formal Units
- Based on phrase structure, sectional divisions, and tonal closure, a piece may fit into one of a number of standard form categories.
- Sectional forms have closed sections, while continuous forms have open sections (according to the definitions given above).
- Large sonata forms may sometimes exhibit ternary structure, even though the sonata is traditionally a large binary form.
- Discussion of the Whole and its Place in Musical Literature
- Now that the piece can be compared in detail to other works, it is now important to establish the work's relationship to other music by the same composer, in the same style and time period, and other music dealing with the same musical and extramusical ideas or materials.
- More background research may be necessary at this point based on the information uncovered during analysis.
- Some information discovered by this process will be superfluous in a written analysis paper. For instance, a summary of the chord structure of a piece is something which all the readers of your paper will presumably be able to figure out themselves.
- The point of writing an analysis paper is to show your personal insights about a piece. Your insights must directly relate to the material in the score. This requires that you have spent enough time thinking about a piece so that you are able not only to voice your ideas about and reactions to the piece, but also to explain how others may enrich their understanding of the piece by getting a sense of why you perceive the music the way you do.
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