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Expanding the Sentence: Intersections of Theory, History, and Aesthetics

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The sentence has become a firmly established phrase model in music theory, yet its status as a self-sufficient and complete unit, complementary to the period, remains empirically vulnerable. Close scrutiny reveals that composers frequently expanded the sentence and/or embedded it into larger phrase configurations; nearly half of Schoenberg's sentence examples in his Fundamentals of Musical Composition exceed his own pedagogical eight-bar model, and Marx's less formalized examples of the Satz type suggest a similar conception. These observations raise significant questions about what kind of unit the sentence is and reveal the extent to which we have buried historical reasons for its features within the formal model. To solve these problems, we must expand our concept of the sentence itself—we must recognize its status as an abstraction and recover the figures that have been sedimented into its theoretical form; we must attempt to historicize our formal model. In this article, I reconsider the sentence as a trope of Fischer's Fortspinnung type and attend to the technical and aesthetic implications of its (hidden) history. This critique also illuminates Adorno's use of the term “intensive” to describe a specific quality of Beethoven's symphonic style, one that bears a striking connection to Schoenberg's “condensing technique of 'liquidation.'” Several examples of Beethoven's intensive phrase structures offer important connections between technical and aesthetic aspects of Classicalstyle organization.
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Keywords: ADORNO; BEETHOVEN; FISCHER; FORM; FORTSPINNUNG; PHRASE; SCHOENBERG; SYMPHONIC STYLE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2015

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  • Music Theory and Analysis (MTA) International Journal of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory

    Music Theory and Analysis (MTA) is a peer-reviewed international journal focusing on recent developments in music theory and analysis. It has a special interest in the interplay between theory and analysis, as well as in the interaction between European and North-American scholarship. Open to a wide variety of repertoires, approaches, and methodologies, the journal aims to stimulate dialogue between diverse traditions within the field.

    Each issue of the journal will contain five sections: (1) an invited keynote article, (2) a selection of peer-reviewed articles, colloquies and short analytical vignettes, (4) contributions to the pedagogy of music theory and analysis, and (5) book reviews, with a focus on transatlantic exchange.

    MTA is the official journal of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory (Vereniging voor Muziektheorie). It is the successor to the Dutch Journal of Music Theory (Tijdschrift voor Muziektheorie).
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