[Smt-talk] Subdominant versus Predominant

kos at panix.com kos at panix.com
Fri May 11 10:19:31 PDT 2012

On Fri, 11 May 2012, Ildar Khannanov <solfeggio7 at yahoo.com> asked:

> So, if someone could clarify the problem with the Urlinie  to me, I would be 
> the most grateful.

To use a metaphor, the problem is as if one is trying to study Finnegan's Wake 
in English with a dictionary when the only language one reads is Japanese.

I tell my students that studying Schenkerian Analysis is like studying a 
musical instrument: You can't hope to be competent in it without many, many 
hours [really:  years] of instruction and study.

As far as graphs, a metaphor:  A stenographer's pad.  People who read 
shorthand know what it says.  People who don't read shorthand can make out 
words or fragments of words here and there, but it otherwise it will look like 
scribbles and won't make much sense.  So too, that's a Schenkerian graph.

Again a metaphor:  Think of the phrase:  "Bomb Iran."

On the surface it suggests the current issues with Iran and its development of 
nuclear power, particularly with regard to other countries like Israel and the 
United States (as well as the nuclear commission of the U.N.). If that were 
it, one's understanding of the phrase would be severely lacking, because, for 
example, it was used by John McCain in the 2008 presidential race (one of his 
bigger gaffes) to refer back to the 1980 parody of the Beach Boys song "Barbara 
Ann" - which came about due to the Iranian hostage crisis - itself brought 
about because of Iran's antagonism toward the United States and its support for 
the Shah - which goes back to the 1953 coup.  And there's more I won't go into.

So just these two words, although they can be understood superficially, really 
speak about much deeper and wider issues of history.  And so too, it is true 
with Schenkerian Analysis and its graphs.  What is in a graph can have many 
different levels of meaning that reflect numerous concepts both within the 
piece and outside of it.

Although Schenker (at one point) claimed that a graph is all you need, he was 
using hyperbole.  You need to have spent hours and hours analyzing a piece of 
music to understand it.  A graph is a representation of many (but not all) of 
those many concepts within a piece, as well as established principles.  If one 
is not fluent in the many ideas and concepts of Schenkerian Analysis, one's 
take on a graph will not only be lacking, but it will lead to 
misunderstandings of what is (and is not) being represented.

Even those well-verse in Schenkerian Analysis would probably say that unless 
you've studied and analyzed a particular piece, looking a graph of that piece 
is not terribly useful (unless the graph is intended to show only a few 
technical details).

Personally speaking, I would certainly not dare to criticize a methodology if I 
had only a rudimentary understanding of its principles.

Bob Kosovsky, Ph.D. -- Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts,
Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
blog:  http://www.nypl.org/blog/author/44   Twitter: @kos2
   Listowner: OPERA-L ; SMT-TALK ; SMT-ANNOUNCE ; SoundForge-users
--- My opinions do not necessarily represent those of my institutions ---

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