[Smt-talk] Clarification of previous post

John Paul Ito itojp at cmu.edu
Fri Jul 6 13:52:04 PDT 2012

I¹m all for selling the practicality of theory as Eric describes ‹ here are
a few of my more effective pitches.

1) hypermeter

Already a post on this, no surprise to me as this connects so directly with
performance concerns.  Five-bar hypermeasures are nice in that they offer a
choice of where in the hypermeasure to put the secondary weight, bar 3 or
bar 4.  Some cases are kind of obvious (second hypermeasure of Mozart
clarinet qn slow mvt, first of Chopin etude op. 10 no. 3, the latter being a
nice ex though in that all weak measures feature syncopations of melody and
harmonic rhythm).  But the five-bar hypermeasure that concludes the A
section in Mendelssohn¹s SwoW op. 19 no. 1 can really go either way.  I like
to use this example especially because I¹ve got a recording (Martin Jones
I¹m pretty sure) that¹s very clear in making the choice that tends to be
less popular with my students.  It also involves the question of making a
big deal out of the cadence vs. letting it play out as the inevitable
consequence of what¹s come before ­ and raising that question helps guard
against some of the scary versions of what a theory-informed performance
might entail.  

I¹ve got some more examples, as well as some tools that help students
navigate some of these things, in lecture notes on phrase expansions and
hypermeter on my theory website:

The opening melody of the spring sonata provides another nice example
similar to one used in the notes (though a bit more complicated), and a few
more that I¹ve used in the classroom should appear in an article on
hypermeter sometime in the next academic year, assuming late stages of
editing go smoothly.

2) does the movement end with an authentic or a half cadence? (Brahms pno
qn, scherzo)

I¹ll quickly sketch some stuff that I¹ve worked out as a teaching example.
I seem to have reinvented a wheel, as I came across a reference to a similar
analysis by (I think) Peter H. Smith in Ryan McClelland¹s Brahms Scherzo

All (or just about all) cadences in the movement are HC¹s, and the theme
that ends the movement has previously been heard circling around scale
degree 5.  Is this a plagal cadence with a picardy third in (the prevailing
key of) C minor, or a half cadence in F minor (the key of the work and of
the following mvt)?  Nice in that the question gets answered two ways by two
different continuations, by C maj trio and by F minor finale.  Especially if
you do aural skills in a way that emphasizes scale degree, this should be a
salient difference in hearing that would lead to rather different
performances.  It¹s also nice in that it suggests that Brahms heard the
parallel between dominant key and dominant chord that so many of us lay so
much stress on, even across movements.  (You¹ll just need to help a bit with
chromatic harmony, as the cadential chord is approached either by a plagal
neapolitan with +6 extra color or by a +6 with very unusual bass motion.)

3) which tones answer which?  (compound melody, more a freshman theory

1st real theme of Mozart K. 397 (after the arpeggios), first four measures.
I start by asking them to pick just one melody note per measure, and to give
reasons for their choices.  In discussion, this then works through to seeing
that voice leading suggests that the two viable options per measure should
be heard as soprano and alto voices going through a double-neighbor figure
in parallel thirds.  The interesting feature is that the even-numbered
measures are antiparallel to the odd-numbered measures in the metrical
deployment of the voices.  I then have them sing the reduction while I play
the original, to make sure they¹re hearing it.  There¹s not so much
ambiguity here, but there is a hidden perspective that many of them find
compelling, and that opens a lot of possibilities in terms of how the
hearing might be reflected in performance ‹ in particular, how to connect
soprano note at the start of the odd measure to its continuation at the end
of the following even measure.  As an extra bonus, it reinforces an aural
understanding of the need of a seventh to resolve.


On 7/5/12 4:54 PM, "Eric Knechtges" <eric.t.knechtges at gmail.com> wrote:

> I have already gotten some fantastic replies both publicly and privately to my
> previous post -- thank you!!  Perhaps I need to clarify what I'm looking for
> and why.

John Paul Ito
Assistant Professor of Music Theory
School of Music
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

412.268.1431 (FAX) 

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