[Smt-talk] Fwd: EuroMAC 2014 - Schenkerian theory of form

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be
Wed Oct 16 00:07:21 PDT 2013

Dear colleagues,

The organizers of the coming European Conference on Music Analysis, in 
Leuven (Belgium), 17-21 September 2014, have published a call for 
"pre-organized" sessions 
(http://www.euromac2014.eu/call-for-papers/english), in the hope to 
avoid sessions fortuitously built of individual proposals more or less 
on the same topic, and to receive instead proposals for sessions 
resulting from a discussion and a planning among participants.

I would like to propose a session on Schenkerian theory of form, for 
which I wrote a first draft that you will find below. Anyone interested 
in participating to the construction of this session is welcome.

My call is published also on the discussion forum of the EuroMac website 
(http://www.euromac2014.eu/euromac-2014-conversations), where it may be 
further discussed. (If you want to receive the messages exchanged on 
this forum, you have to take a subscription.) Otherwise write me at my 
adress below.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne (emeritus)
nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be

*Call for collaboration***

/Free Composition/ends with a chapter entitled “Form” [/Free 
Composition/, Part III, Chapter 5, p. 128-145.], presenting the 
provisional outcome of an old project, yet surprising by its brevity. 
Schenker recognises it himself: “Within the confines of a book which for 
the first time seeks to present the concept of organic coherence, the 
theory of form as a manifestation of the fundamental design must not 
claim as much space as it would ordinarily find in a separate treatise 
on form […]. However briefly I express myself, I am happy to offer, at 
least in this manner, the ‘Essay on a New Theory of Form’ which I have 
promised for decades.” [/Idem/, p. 130, § 306.]
     Commentators have expressed their surprise at the brevity of this 
chapter. According to Eugen Narmour, form functions “like other non 
privileged elements in Schenkerian theory.” [/Beyond Schenkerism/, p. 
87.] Allen Cadwallader considers that the chapter in question “remains 
essentially an introduction, an incomplete outline in need of further 
elaboration and development.” [Cadwallader (1990), p. 1-2.] But these 
criticisms take too little account of the fact, albeit stressed by 
Schenker himself, that the earlier chapters of /Free Composition/ often 
mention form “as the ultimate manifestation of that structural coherence 
which grows out of background, middleground, and foreground.” [/Free 
Composition/, /ibid./] Almost every page in the volume speaks of form, 
and the whole work may therefore be considered to a large extent as a 
treatise on musical form.

     What remains puzzling, however, is this original conception that 
Schenker underlines: “All forms appear in the ultimate foreground; but 
all of them have their origin in, and derive from, the background. This 
is the innovative aspect of my explanation of forms.” [/Ibid/] But what 
is the nature of this derivation? How is one to understand the link that 
Schenker suggests between “form” and “structure”? Is it a conflict, a 
tension, interdependence? How is it possible, for instance, that the 
concept of interruption, presented as generating binary form, could also 
produce three-part forms, but that other three-part forms may not rest 
on the principle of interruption?

     These problems have often been discussed in recent Schenkerian 
literature, without being fully solved. The session proposed here would 
like to come back on these questions, to take stock of them and, if 
possible, to bring new answers. One may consider the possibility of 
devoting part of the time of the session to a round table devoted to the 
formal analysis – Schenkerian or other – of a work to be chosen in 
common. I call to anyone interested in participating to this project, 
which we will further discuss together in order to submit it on time to 
the Selection committee of Euromac 2014.


Beach, David, « Schubert’s Experiments with Sonata Form: Formal-Tonal 
Design versus Underlying Structure », /Music Theory Spectrum/ 15(1993), 
p. 1-18.
Burnham, Scott, « Form », /Cambridge History of Western Music Theory/, 
Th. Christensen ed., Cambridge, CUP, 2001, p. 880-906.
Cadwallader, Allen, « Form and Tonal Process. The Design of Different 
Structural Levels », /Trends in Schenkerian Research/, A. Cadwallader 
ed., New York, etc. Schirmer Books, 1990, p. 1-21.
Hooper, Jason, « Heinrich Schenker’s Early Conception of Form, 
1895-1914 », /Theory and Practice /36 (2011), p. 35-64.
Laskowski, Larry, « J.S. Bach’s ‘Binary’ Dance Movements: Form and 
Voice-Leading », /Schenker Studies/, H. Siegel ed., Cambridge, CUP,1990, 
p. 84-93.Rothstein, William, /Phrase Rhythm in Tonal //Music/, New 
Yorketc., Schirmer Books,1989.
Schenker, Heinrich, /Der freie Satz/, O. Jonas ed., Wien, Universal 
Edition, 1956. /Free Composition/, transl. E. Oster, New York, London, 
Longman, 1979. /L’Écriture libre/, trad. N. Meeùs, Liège, Mardaga, 1993.
Schmalfeldt, Janet, « Towards a Reconciliation of Schenkerian Concepts 
with Traditional and Recent Theories of Form », /Music Analysis/ 
10(1991), p. 233-287.
Schmalfeldt, Janet, /In the Process of Becoming: Analytic and 
Philosophical Perspectives on Form in Early Nineteenth-Century Music/, 
New York, OxfordUniversityPress,2011.
Smith, Charles J., « Musical Form and Fundamental Structure: An 
Investigation of Schenker’s /Formenlehre/ », /Music Analysis /15 (1996), 
p. 191-297.
Smith, Peter, « Brahms and Schenker: A Mutual Response to Sonata Form », 
/Music Theory -Spectrum/ 16 (1994), p. 77-103.
Webster, James, « /Formenlehre/ in Theory and Practice », /Musical Form, 
Forms, and /Formenlehre/: Three Methodological Reflections/, P. Bergé 
ed., Leuven, LUP, 2009, p. 123-139.


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