Assignment on Tristan und Isolde - Prelude

Submitted by Zhuqing Hu on Saturday, 5/5/2012, at 12:12 AM

Assignment for Wagner's Tristan und Isolde Prelude

Listen to the Prelude. The sound fild combines the Prelude with the finale, Isolde's Liebestod. You can stop at around 9:52. The orchestral score is here:

Listen also to Isolde's Liebestod (a vocal version as a separate sound file). The socre:

Read the opera's synopsis . I will not be summarizing the opera's story during my presentation.

Watch the final parts of Scene V, Act I: (consult the synopsis if you are not sure what is going on here).

Answer the following questions, after listening to the Prelude, the Liebestod, and consulting the scores.

(1) What key is the Prelude in? What supports your reading?

(2) What are the major cadences in this Prelude?

(3) What are the major motivic units? How are they related to each other?

(4) What is the connection between the Prelude and the Liebestod? Why are they often performed "back-to-back?"

(5) What is the connection between the Prelude and Scene V, Act I? What does this connection tell us?

Post your answers (short, 1-2 sentences teach) to the course blog no latter than 10:00 P.M. on Sunday, May 6th. (See I am pretty lenient).

09 Melody, Op 74, No 9

Submitted by Robert T. Flynn on Wednesday, 4/25/2012, at 6:20 PM


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Revised (and shortened) definition of analysis

Submitted by Joseph John Taff on Tuesday, 4/17/2012, at 11:00 AM

The term “analysis” refers to any attempt to characterize the thoughts, feelings, and moods evoked by a piece of music, and to explain them in terms of specific techniques used in the composition and the performance of the piece.  This process also involves examining compositional and performance techniques in light of their historical context, and often ventures into descriptions of how a given piece shows the evolution of such techniques over time.  Frequently, analyses also include discussions of what claims we can legitimately make about the expressive content of the piece, that is, about how (if at all) we can bridge the gap between descriptions of musical characteristics and descriptions of emotional or affective characteristics.  That is to say, analysis feels obligated, it its more philosophical branches, to justify the very asking of its central question: how to form a bridge between gut reaction and musical device in a way that explains emotional reaction in terms of musical device without destroying its emotional significance in the process.

Analysis (revised)

Submitted by Ryland L. Richards on Monday, 4/16/2012, at 5:53 PM

(I still would like to separate "analysis" and "interpretation" into two distinct categories, but as no one else follows this rule and my definition is supposed to be widely applicable, I will forgo my own inclinations.)

Music analysis is 1) the practice of parsing music, which is by nature ambiguous, into explicit terms that describe its structure; 2) designating the expressive functions of specific musical facts within a piece; and 3) figuring out how the piece works as a whole. To accomplish these aims, a music analyst may draw on relationships inside a piece or on the way the piece it fits (or does not fit) into patterns set by other music. Indeed, he or she must often draw on both to produce a useful and comprehensive analysis.

Analytical approaches differ most frequently in their pursuit of the third aim enumerated above. Organicism, for example, portrays pieces of music as growing from simple building blocks into a much more complex entity whose features, while they can be picked out and isolated for the purposes of recognizing them, depend on their interactions with each other; each feature must be taken in context with the entire piece. Narrativity strives to relate the progression of a piece to the telling of a story, although the location of narrator, characters, events, and setting in music is a prickly and nebulous question.

The second aim is perhaps not as disputed, but it gives rise to much discussion all the same. What does music express, at any given point or as a whole song? How do we know, or how do we construct our best guess? What, exactly, in the music has the ability to express?

In the 19th century specifically, many composers were beginning to break from traditional tonality and form, as one can see from the harmonic or structural analyses of 19th-century music. Thus, these novel motions become the foci of interpretation. An analyst must attempt to figure out what the new gestures mean, considering they often do not have precedents, and how their foreignness affects the impression that the piece leaves on the listener.


Submitted by Henrik O. Onarheim on Monday, 4/16/2012, at 5:00 PM

Music Analysis (19th century) – the act of ‘explaining’ a composition.  Theories, methods, and devices vary widely amongst musicologists on how best to manage this ‘explanation’.  A more formal analysis of chords and tonal functionality is often the starting point before for an attempt to locate interconnectivity in music or elements of narrativity.  The project of music analysis arises from the acknowledged expressiveness of music.  While nearly everyone – uneducated listener, music theory professor – agrees that music has expressive potential, the music analyst must determine what is expressed, who does the expressing, and how the expressing is done.  Even these most fundamental questions cause heated debate and involve often contentious assumptions.  This is no doubt why the field generates such interest despite seemingly low stakes – after all, music can leave indelible effects on listeners, and accounting for these effects add as much to our knowledge of humanity as of music.



A Far Cry from a Grove Entry

Submitted by Jenna Iden on Monday, 4/16/2012, at 4:16 PM

[In this re-write, I stood by many elements of my original post’s overview, though I now have far more specifics to support it.]

To analyze a written excerpt in an English class, you break down rhetoric to particular arrangements of words, sounds, and grammatical decisions in an attempt to understand and recreate their original impact. The emotional value of language can be sewn back together, metaphor reattached to meter and rhyme, in an attempt to understand its initial power. Music analysis makes this attempt with even less tangible elements. Chords and rhythms are called upon to explain a guttural response to a particular musical moment. Key areas can be settings, character development. Successful music analysis discerns what makes a piece live and breathe without simply butchering the work, clinically removing the expressive content. Analysis begins with the big picture, focuses in on the mechanical details, then labors to attach those smaller details to their larger impact. 

In 19th century analysis, the crafting of a musical story heavily influences analysis. Schubert’s and Schumann’s sets of Lieder rely heavily on their texts, allowing their music to embody the story professed in words. Careful attention to key relationships, interaction of instruments, and melodic and rhythmic content can support analysis, wedding formal musical elements to more easily understood text. The flat VI and Neapolitan chords especially play a role in the music of the time; the flat VI (the dominant of the Neapolitan) seems impossibly foreign, a dramatic change that reappears again and again in 19th century works. The late 1980s yielded a narrative approach based on the formalist and structuralist thought of the time.  This creation of narratives transfers the analysis of character and text from the Lieder to purely instrumental work. As with any approach, wholehearted religious adherence is undesirable. Narrative is an entryway to talking about the horizontal arc of a work in particularly emotional terms. A combination of all approaches should present a nuanced view of analyzed music, an attention to detail and the entire work at once. 

So what is it that we've been trying to do all semester?

Submitted by Beccie M. Magnus on Monday, 4/16/2012, at 4:12 PM

Music analysis is the process by which people attempt to explore and express why music works the way it does and why it affects the listener in a particular way. This process may include an examination of the form, harmony, themes and thematic relations, and many other technical aspects of a piece, seeking to create an account of how these elements interact to inspire some kind of emotional reaction. These methods of technical analysis may expand to include investigation of the development of certain themes or gestures over the course of the piece, interrelations and transitions between different sections of a piece, etc., and may ultimately lead into more abstract characterizations of the piece in an attempt to articulate the effect that a piece has.

People may choose to interpret their reaction in terms of its narrative or emotional content, but in order to move beyond an individual and private relation with a given piece to come up with a more general account of the way(s) a piece works, there must be some consensus about what in fact the effects are. If this consensus is not reached, then it will be naturally impossible to agree on how any effects are produced. This means that in the public sphere, successful analysis relies heavily on successful articulation of things that are inherently musical—rather than linguistic—in origin. As such, certain methods of analysis may be more useful on a personal basis, in order to augment an individual understanding, but others may be more conducive to establishing this linguistic common ground that is necessary to be able to share communication about—and therefore appreciation of—music.


Submitted by Robert M. Suits on Monday, 4/16/2012, at 1:22 PM

Musical analysis is the study of how music works, and the attempt to put those ideas into writing.

Among the most important directions of inquiry in the first field are why and how the music itself has the power to express emotion of some kind, and how music can impart a story to the listener. To this end, analysts use individual works by acclaimed composers and examine them on a technical level -- how the melody, harmony, timbre, rhythm, form, and other aspects interact to express or narrate. Such examination can take place on a number of levels: a very localized treatment of how a single musical aspect develops through a piece or the effect of a few measures on the larger whole of a piece, or a larger-scale attempt to understand the piece as a unified whole.

The second aspect -- that of communication -- is perhaps the more difficult of the two. Music is traditionally one of the most difficult media to translate into other media, for it affects a non-visual sense in an abstract but extremely specific way, imparting emotion and images directly into the mind of a listener, but ultimately with very different effects depending on the performance, setting, and audience. Analysis typically uses an imperfect mixture of technical description and metaphor to attempt to communicate the one analyst's reading and interpretation of a work to their readership.

In the end, the stated goal of such study is to better understand the musical artform and to formulate potential interpretations of historical or modern works.

Analysis (edited)

Submitted by Julian Cullen Budwey on Monday, 4/16/2012, at 1:20 PM

Since I still stand by a good portion of my original definition of analysis, I decided to edit my old version, adding some new thoughts and getting rid of things that I no longer agree with. Here's the edited version:

The word “analysis” comes from the ancient Greek word lyein, meaning, “to unfasten”. In a very literal sense, an analysis of something is a taking-apart of that thing. In analyzing something, one breaks a complex thing into its simpler parts. Analysis is an integral part of many different disciplines (e.g. philosophy, mathematics, literature, music, etc.), and bears a slightly different shade of meaning in each discipline. However, in all cases, analysis involves breaking down a complex subject to better understand it.

Analysis of music involves taking apart a musical work and examining it. Very often, this process begins with a question about why a piece evokes a certain reaction from the listener. The analysis frequently involves examining the harmonic structure of the work. Other sorts of structures and details can be worked out of the piece and similarly examined. This step involves the discovery of objective structural facts.

But while we may note these objective details, simply stating that a certain piece moves to the Neapolitan, however, in a certain measure is relatively meaningless to the listener. Noting that the move to the Neapolitan causes a feeling of disorientation is very meaningful. Thus, we move back to the original question, finding the connection between the objective musical facts and the subjective response of the listener.

There is no official method of analysis. Different methods have their benefits and some work better than others for different types of music. Certain types of analysis focus on the internal logic of a piece, while others look at the work as it stands in relation to others of its genre. Some methods of analysis include: organicism, narratology, and Shenkarian analysis.

Analysis 2

Submitted by Robert T. Flynn on Monday, 4/16/2012, at 12:06 PM

Analysis is, most broadly, uncovering what a musical work has to offer. It is often the process of relating the parts of a work to the whole, as is important in recognizing form and understanding organicist or narrative pieces. Composers often emphasize particular kernels of musical interest, intentionally or otherwise, that may be discovered through analysis. Finding such musical intricacies unique to any work offers the listener a means of engaging with it, a process by which he will find meaning and depth.

Analysis seeks to understand what a piece can do and how it does it, often dividing into several unique paths of interpretation. There is rarely a unianmous understanding of how a piece works, as where one listener may appreciate a piece's narrative capacity another may prefer its organicist composition. Analysis is then a process that varies between individuals, though it invariably achieves a sort of bond between the work and the individual. Written analysis can be understood as the account of such a bond's creation, or an explanation of what aspects of a piece cause a listener to assign it meaning.

Such ambiguity as to what constitutes "analysis" suggests that there can be no absolute analytic method, and that analytic practices will vary between pieces and even between listeners. Since the intricate meaning of a piece may be communicated through a whole number of musical devices, it is the job of several unique methods to surely discover meaning.