Monday, November 30, 2009

Readings with different priorities

The readings in this entry are based on some in the co-authored article "Rewriting Schenker," 60-63, where we construct a series of alternative linear analyses of a short Czerny exercise by employing for each one a markedly different set of priorities. All the readings in this group are consistent with the principle behind the proto-backgrounds and begin to move in a more determined way beyond traditional Schenkerian analysis.

The first (graphic below) gives priority to melodic shape and multiple structures, therefore resists imposing a simple or heavily reduced urlinie type a priori, and ignores most implicit or hidden melodic patterning, draping interpretation instead about the most obvious melodic shapes. This reading, thus, effectively thwarts reduction beyond the phrase by "democratizing" the structural levels - instead of one overarching melodic structure fanning out through a series of prolongations, this is a chain of melodic structures. Such priorities do not prevent the analyst from making summarizing observations, such as noting the parallelism of phrases 2 and 3 (E-A, G#-C#) or the fact that phrases 1-3 rise and only the last falls, or the fact that the rising figures encompasses an octave (C#4-C#5). We are just not allowed to make too much of such observations (by allowing the patterns of the first three phrases to disappear inside the octave, for instance). This "democratizing" highlights the degree to which the synchronic hierarchies of linear analysis can undermine the diachronic.

The motif of rising, whether through arpeggio or line, becomes more obvious in the reading that gives priority to structural "frame" (below), even as we return to a hierarchical bias even more insistent than the traditional Schenkerian ones. The figure we saw in the first strain of the first analysis expands over the entire waltz: overall, an arpeggio from C#5 through E5 to A5, with a line to fill in the fourth. This is an aurally efficient interpretation that does not require fabrication of implicit counterpoint or complex nestings.

Much the same can be said of the next three readings, which substitute for the "frame" metric placement,
a fixed tonal space of the octave (this was already reproduced and discussed in the proto-background ^1-^8 entry),

and registral shape).

Littlefield, Richard, and David Neumeyer. "Rewriting Schenker–History, Ideology, Narrative." In Adam Krims, , ed. Music/Ideology: Resisting the Aesthetic, 138-146. Amsterdam: G + B Arts International, 1998. Originally published in Music Theory Spectrum 14/1 (1992): 38-65.