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to Schenkerian Analysis

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Basic ideas behind Schenkerian analysis

Looking beneath the immediate surface of the music to
understand how it connects up into larger structures
That music is an art of elaboration
Using the analogy of tension and resolve/closure
Schenkers motto at the beginning of Die Frie Satz:
Semper idem sed non eodem modo
= always the same, but not in the same way

Focused on the music of a fairly small number of Baroque

(improvised embellishment), Classical and Romantic
composers, e.g., Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms

1. General Principles

Example 1a: Looking at Theme and Variations as a good example of the underlying ideas


Variation 1

Mozart, Variations on C (Ah vous dirais-je maman), K. 265.

Example 1b: Simple melodic analysis of Ah vous dirais-je maman

Example 2a: Elaboration in Beethovens variations on My Country, Tis of Thee

2. Basic Tools

Music as elaboration:
1. Harmony and figured bass
2. Counterpoint
3. Analytical layers
4. Basic melodic elaborations
1. Arpeggiation
2. Passing notes
3. Neighbour notes

Compound melody

Mozart, Piano Sonata in F major, KV 332, Adagio

Example 2d: Using figured bass labelling to describe common embellishments

The 4-3 suspension

- Linear embellishment

The 6/4 5/3

(cadential 6-4)
- Linear embellishment
- Double appogiatura
Mozart, The London Sketchbook, KV 15, No. 28

Example 2e: Using figured bass labelling to describe common embellishments cont.

The 6/4 5/3 (cadential 6-4)

- Double appogiatura (linear embellishment)

(c) Mozart, The London Sketchbook, KV 15, No. 28; (d) Eight Minuets, KV 315, No. 8

Example 2f: Counterpoint

Three important ideas for Schenker from Species Counterpoint

1. Voice leading (relationship between voices)

2. The control of dissonant intervals
3. Melodic Fluency

Schenker believed that these three ideas underpin tonal

music on the smallest and the largest scale.

Example 2g: Analytical Layers

Basic melodic elaborations 1: Arpeggiations

1. A consonant elaboration
2. A series of skips between the notes of a single chord
3. The basic notation of foreground elaboration - the notes of the arpeggiation are
represented with stemless note heads and grouped together with a slur
4. The Roman numeral below the stave represents the harmony being elaborated

Basic melodic elaborations 1: Arpeggiations cont. arpeggiations in different layers of the

musical texture

Beethoven, Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (Moonlight), presto agitato

Basic melodic elaborations 2: neighbour notes


A dissonant elaboration
Related by step to the note it is elaborating
Moves away and then returns (complete neighbour note)
Missing either the first or last instance of the harmony note (incomplete NN)

Basic melodic elaborations 3: Linear progressions

1. Involves stepwise motion in one direction between 2 harmony notes
2. 3-prg, 4-prg, 5-prg etc

Mozart, Piano Sonata in G major,

KV 283, presto


Bass prolongations

Schenker suggests that the harmonic pattern I-V-I is common in all tonal
This reflects the fact that virtually all tonal pieces begin and end in the tonic
and that they almost invariably close with a move from dominant to tonic
As most action will occur in-between, we could represent the underlying
harmony as:
I (X) V I
Common bassbrechung patterns:

The Bassbrechung is brought together with an upper voice to create the very simple
two-part counterpoint that appears at the deepest layer of a Schenkerian analysis:
what Schenker called the Ursatz
1. The upper voice is a descending linear progression, the Urlinie
(fundamental line)
2. The simplest version of the urlinie is a descent from the third degree of the
scale to the root over the I-V-I of the Bassbrechung