[Smt-talk] Classical Form and Recursion

Thomas Noll noll at cs.tu-berlin.de
Fri Mar 27 09:27:26 PDT 2009

Dear Michele,
while contributing to in this thread I didn't think of secondary  
dominants in terms of a poetic function. I was single-mindedly  
concerned with the recursion issue. But this is an interesting  

(1) To begin with, I would localize Jacobsons' poetic function  
already at a very basic level of harmonic analysis. A paradigmatic  
axis could systematize the possible configurations of tonal regions  
and harmonies. The fifth as a root distance between dominant and  
tonic would be an instance of a paradigmatic relation, for example.  
Likewize one can look at the paradigmatic axis transformationally,  
e.g. in terms of a group action on chords with a dominant  
transformation D and others.
The syntagmatic axis is constituted by harmonic progressions. The  
poetic function provides motivation for harmonic progressions in  
terms of a chosen paradigm. Neo-Riemannian analysis is an example.  
When the analyst chooses a set of generators on the paradigmatic side  
(such as P,L,R) and writes chains of those letters between chords in  
a score, then he motivates the chord progressions under consideration  
in terms of his paradigm.

In addition to this "unpoetic" view, let my add the following  
association - caused by your posting.

(2) Remember Lewin's analysis of Schubert's "Morgengruss" (in "Music  
Theory, Phenomenology, and Modes of Perception"). Lewin draws a link  
between the ambiguous usage of a subjunctive mood "als wär dir was  
geschehen", with Schubert's  harmonization, and in particular  with a  
secondary dominant right at the penultimate syllable "-sche-".
The underlying speech act can be analyzed as irony: The hero  
downplays his advance with the openly disingenuous usage of the  
subjunctive mood. The underlying intentional state of the hero thus  
includes recursion (e.g. according to an approach to communication  
offered by the semiotician Roland Posner). I do not exactly remember  
Roland Posner's analysis of ironic sign behavior. But it was surely  
more complicated than: the addresser intends that he makes the  
addressee believe that he (the addresser) does not believe what he  
(the addresser) intends to make the addressee believe.
I feel that the Schubert example and also its argumentative role of  
Lewin's article offer several directions for further theorizing about  
recursion in music. Lewin (1986) sketches a theory of musical  
perceptions which has ideas in common with rhetorical structure  
analysis in linguistics, which came up in the same years (Mann &  
Thompson 1987). Unlike in RST Lewin's networks of perceptions are not  
trees. They include the possibility of subtle contradictions as do  
Posner's descriptions of intentional states, such as in irony.

Thomas Noll

Am 27.03.2009 um 00:52 schrieb Michele Ignelzi:

> Dear Ildar, Thomas, Dmitri and all,
> Does this approach have anything in common with Jakobson's  
> projection "of the principle of equivalence from the axis of  
> selection into the axis of combination," which was the basis for  
> Ruwet's and Nattiez's paradigmatic analysis?
> Best,
> Michele
> On Mar 26, 2009, at 02:14 AM, Ildar Khannanov wrote:
>> Something similar has been done in literary analysis under the  
>> term "juxtaposition of metaphor on metonymy."
> ------------------------------------------
> Michele Ignelzi
> State Conservatory of Music, Fermo, Italy
> m.ignelzi at tin.it
> _______________________________________________
> Smt-talk mailing list
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> societymusictheory.org

Thomas Noll
noll at cs.tu-berlin.de
Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya, Barcelona
Departament de Teoria i Composició
Tel (priv.):   +34 93 268 75 19
Tel (mobil): +34 66 368 12 02


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