[Pt. V Proj.2] – The Classical Era- Project 2- String Quartets ~ Research point 5.3 – Different methodologies in musical analysis.

[Pt. V Proj.2] – The Classical Era- Project 2- String Quartets ~ Research point 5.3 – Different methodologies in musical analysis. Over the Stylistic Techniques course we have investigated compositions in different ways. Each time we sought more to understand specific aspects of the composition and so we followed particular analytical processes which would help us do this. For example, we undertook a harmonic reduction of a passage from Chopin we carried out what we might call a ‘note count’ in Schoenberg’s Variationswe created a structural analysis based on key and theme for Haydn’s Emperor. Each of the bullet points above is an example of a different kind of ‘methodology’ – the way you do something and the thinking behind it. There are many methodologies in musical analysis. Each of them tries to reveal specific things about pieces of music or styles. The research point here is to undertake a short investigation into the different kinds of musical analysis. You may find the best way forward is to begin by looking at musical analysis in a broad sense. Then follow up a few key practitioners such as Heinrich Schenker, Allen Forte and Jean-Jacques Nattiez, connecting the different methodologies to different styles of music. Include some of your own thoughts about the techniques you are discovering and the ones we have used during this course. The aim here is to develop an overview of the different ways to analyse various aspects of music for you to refer to in your ongoing study of music. Brief summaries of the methodologies are fine.

Different methodologies in musical analysis.

In my view even the earliest forms of music theory or rules are based on an analytical framework and classification of music. From the first attempt at notation of pitch and rhythm and organising works into keys or scales the process of analysing what is being sung or played has begun. Thus, one could argue that even practices like strict counterpoint as prescribed in Fux’ ‘Parnassus’ is a type of musical analysis at its core. In fact, future methodologies of musical analysis, such as Schenker analysis, went on to build on the rules set out in these early texts and are based entirely around the rules of voice leading as a tool for analysis. Schenker’s thought that all tonal composition, no matter how free ‘on the surface’ showed an underlying structure ‘Ursatz’ which was a prolongation of strict counterpoint (through the use of passing tones etc). Harmonically he looked at which chords had ‘structural’ significance and extrapolated the chords ‘in-between’ as an outgrowth of these structural chords. He labelled his functional harmony chords with Roman numerals.

Roman numerals had been used for chord analysis since the French composer Rameau’s 1722 ‘Treatise on Harmony’ in which Rameau laid out a scientific/mathematical law/principle of ‘fundamental bass’ of all Western music. One should point out that many earlier mathematical and scientific models for music exists harking back to ancient Greece and Pythagoras. Nevertheless, Rameau’s treatise forms the basis of modern-day tonal music theory. Future theorists such as the Viennese musicologists Georg Joseph Vogler and Gottfried Weber carried on this use of Roman numerals in harmonic analysis, a practice taken up by Anton Bruckner and finally transmitted to Schenker. It is a method also frequently used by Jazz musicians who generally tend to prefer chord charts to scores. A chord chart is enough for most jazz musicians to get an analytical overview of a work which then enables them to improvise around the chordal structure.

Contemporary atonal music has made new methods of musical analysis necessary. One such methodology was presented by Allen Forte in his book ‘The Structure of Atonal Music’  (1973. Here Forte attempts to provide a method of analysing pitch-structures that do not conform to conventional tonal or 12-note serial systems. Atonal music is characterized by new combinations of pitches ‘pitch combinations’ against new backgrounds ‘pitch sets’ His analysis of this ‘set complex’ creates a model for analysing and interpreting any atonal composition.

A whole different approach to musical analysis can be found in the field of music semiology. Semiotics is the study of the symbolic meaning of signs. Signs can be things like words or other means of communication though the senses, such as auditory communication through music. Semiotics also tend to have anthropological and sociological aspects to them. Musicologists using semiology to look at music include Gino Stefani, Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Roland Barthes, Mario Baroni, Ray Jackendoff, Leonard B. Meyer, Arved Ashby and more recently Kofi Agawu.

The above-mentioned methods largely focus on Western pitch and harmony. There are many, many more ways to analyse and classify music outside of these traditions or looking at music from a purely rhythmical perspective. I shall leave those for another day.