Percy Goetschius.

Lessons in Music Form online

. (page 3 of 10)
Online LibraryPercy GoetschiusLessons in Music Form → online text (page 3 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

material which flutters about the fixed center. Therefore the
preliminary tones do not indicate the _essential_ or actual beginning
of the motive, but its apparent or conditional beginning only; or what
might be called its _melodic_ beginning. For this reason, also, the
actual "first measure" of a motive or phrase or sentence of any kind is
always the first FULL measure, - the measure which contains the first
primary accent; that is to say, the preliminary tone or tones do not
count as first measure. For this reason, further, it is evident that
preliminary tones are invariably to be regarded as borrowed from the
final measure of the preceding motive or phrase; they must be accounted
for in someway, - must derive their metric pulse from some group, - and
as they cannot be a part of the first measure, they obviously form a
borrowed portion of the (preceding) last measure. This will be better
understood by reference to Ex. 14, No. 3; the two 16ths at the end of
the 4th measure (preliminary tones of the following phrase) are
borrowed from the _f_ which precedes, - the final tone of the first
phrase, that would, but for this reduction, have been the full
half-note necessary to complete the four measures (like the final _g_).

Perhaps the most striking feature of this rule of preliminary tones is
the absolute freedom of its application. It is _always_ wholly
optional with the composer to begin his figure or motive at whatever
part of the measure he may elect; at the accent or not; with or without
preliminary tones; to borrow beats from the preceding ending or not, as
his judgment or taste, or possibly some indirect requirement, may
decide. So valid is this license, that it is by no means unusual to
find consecutive members of the same phrase beginning at different
points in the measure. This results, apparently, in motives of
irregular, unsymmetric lengths; but no confusion is possible if the
student will recollect and apply the rule that the objective point (the
heart, so to speak) of each motive is the first primary accent it
contains; counting from these points, all irregularities of melodic
extent become purely accidental and harmless. For illustration (the
preliminary tones are marked _a_): -

[Illustration: Example 14. Fragments of Mozart, Beethoven, and

In No. 1, the first motive evidently ends with the longer tone,
_g_-sharp. In No. 2, each one of the four motives differs from the
others in length; the sum of them is, however, exactly 24 beats, or 8
measures; hence, each one is _actually_ a two-measure motive, counting
from accent to accent. The upper numbers indicate the _actual, vital_
beginning of each motive.

This very natural, and fairly common, inequality increases the
difficulty of analysis somewhat. A knowledge of the principal chords,
and familiarity with their manner of employment in composition, greatly
facilitates the task, because the harmonic design furnishes in many
cases the only unmistakable clue to the extremities of the melodic
members. The difficulty finally vanishes only when the student has
learned to appreciate the declamatory quality of all good melody, and
can detect its inflections, its pauses; can _feel_ which (and how many)
of its tones are coherent and inseparable, and where the points of
repose interrupt the current, and thus divulge the sense of the melodic

LESSON 3. - Analyze the third Song Without Words of Mendelssohn (A
major, the so-called Hunting Song); first of all, locate the principal
melody, - it is not always the uppermost line of tones; then divide this
melody into its melodic motives, marking the "breaks" which separate
each from the following one; the figures may be noted, also, but only
mentally. No. 35 may also be analyzed in the same manner.


THE PHRASE. - It is not altogether easy to give a precise definition of
the phrase. Like so many of the factors which enter into the
composition of this most abstract, ideal, and intangible of the arts,
the phrase demands considerable latitude of treatment, and will not
readily submit to strict limitations or absolute technical conditions.
Perhaps the most correct definition is, that the term phrase is
equivalent to "sentence," and represents the smallest musical section
that expresses a _complete_ idea; not necessarily wholly finished, and
therefore independent of other adjoining phrases, but at least as
complete _in itself_ as is an ordinary brief sentence in grammar, with
its subject, predicate, and object. It should be sufficiently long to
establish the sense of tonality, the consciousness of beginning,
course, and ending, and should exhibit a certain (though limited)
amount of palpable and satisfying melodic and harmonic contents. For
this reason, the Phrase, and nothing smaller, should be regarded as the
structural basis of musical form.

The factors defined in the preceding chapter (the figure and motive)
are, as a rule, decidedly less than is demanded of a complete phrase,
which - as has been intimated - usually consists in the union of two
(possibly more) motives, - just as the motive is compounded of figures,
and the latter of single tones.

In some, comparatively rare, cases the composer gives a phrase an
independent place upon his page, as complete miniature sentence, not
directly connected with other phrases. This may be seen, very plainly,
at the beginning (the first four or five measures) of the Songs Without
Words, Nos. 28, 41, 35, 3, 4, 16. Examine each, carefully, and the
nature of the phrase in its most definite form will become apparent.

Such independent phrases are most likely to be found, like the above,
at the beginning or end of a larger composition, to which they are
related indirectly, as isolated introduction, or postlude. Thus, the
following complete phrase appears at the beginning of a song:

[Illustration: Example 15. Fragment of Schubert.]

Its division into two melodic motives, and the subdivision of these
into figures, is plainly marked.

When the phrase assumes such a conspicuous position, and is so complete
and definite in its effect as the ones just seen, there is naturally no
difficulty in recognizing and defining its extremities. But the task
of phrase analysis is by no means always thus easy.

LENGTH OF THE REGULAR PHRASE. - Fortunately for the work of analysis,
there are certain established landmarks of forms, so conscientiously
observed, and so firmly grounded in the practices of classic writing
(because the necessary consequences of natural law), that it is
generally practicable to fix fairly regular and plausible boundaries to
the phrase, notwithstanding the freedom and elasticity which
characterize the application of the syntactic principle in music.

Therefore the student will find that a phrase, in the great majority of
cases, covers exactly _four measures_, and will seldom be misled if he
looks for the end of his phrase four measures beyond its beginning.
This refers, be it understood, only to measures of average size (in the
ordinary time denominations, 3-4, 4-4, 6-8 measure). If the measures
are uncommonly large (9-8, 12-8), the phrase will probably cover no
more than two of them; or, if small (2-4, or 3-4 in rapid tempo), the
phrase may extend to the eighth measure. The operation of this
four-measure rule is exhibited with striking regularity and persistence
in the _Jugend Album_ of Schumann (op. 68); throughout its forty-three
numbers there are probably no more than a half-dozen phrases whose
length differs from this standard. For example:

[Illustration: Example 16. Fragment of Schumann, Op. 68, No. 11.]

It will be observed that the first (and also the third) of these
phrases consists of two exactly similar two-measure motives. This
seems to lend some confirmation to the idea of a two-measure phrase;
but the student is warned against deviating from his four-measure
standard, upon such evidence as this. Many instances will be found,
like these, in which the impression of a complete phrase is not gained
until the motive of two measures has been thus repeated; _the
repetition is necessary_, in order to finish the sentence, and this
proves that the two measures alone do not constitute the "complete
idea" which we expect the phrase to represent.

The same regularity of dimension will usually be found in all kinds of
dance music; in technical exercises (for instance, the études of Czerny
and others); and in all music of a simple or popular character.

* * * * * *

EXCEPTIONS. - In its ordinary, normal condition the phrase is a musical
sentence four measures in length. But this rule has its necessary
exceptions; necessary because, as we have learned, the principle of
Variety is quite as vital as that of Unity or symmetry. The phrase is
not always regular; by various means and for various reasons, it
occasionally assumes an irregular form. When such irregular phrases
are encountered (phrases of less or more than four measures) the
student will best distinguish them by defining their extremities, their
beginning and ending - as "beginning" and "ending," without reference to
their length. This should not be attended with any serious difficulty;
at least not to the observant student who reads his musical page
thoughtfully, and attaches some meaning to the figures and motives of
the melody; who endeavors to recognize the extent to which the
successive tones appear to cling together (like the letters in a word)
and constitute an unbroken melodic number, - and, in so doing, also
recognizes the points where this continuity is broken, and a new number
is announced. Much assistance may be derived from the fact - striking
in its simplicity - that the ending of one phrase defines, at the same
time, the beginning of the next, and _vice versa_. The locating of
one, therefore, serves to locate the other. There is, usually,
something sufficiently indicative about a "beginning," to render it
noticeable to a careful observer, and the same is true of an "ending."
This is illustrated in the following:

[Illustration: Example 17. Fragments of Beethoven.]

No. 1 is from the pianoforte sonata, op. 10, No. 3, second movement;
see the original. This phrase exhibits an ending, unmistakably, in the
_fifth_ measure, and not in the fourth. Its form is therefore

In No. 2 (from the first pianoforte sonata), the first phrase ends with
the fourth measure, obviously, for the evidence of a new "beginning" in
the following measure is perfectly clear; the phrase is therefore
regular. But the next phrase runs on to the _sixth_ measure from this
point (the tenth from the beginning of the whole), because there is no
earlier evidence of an "ending." Observe that the first phrase has a
preliminary quarter-note, the second phrase none. Turning to
Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, the very first (introductory) phrase
of No. 3 is five measures in length; the first one in No. 35 also
contains five measures; the first one in No. 16, and in No. 9, contains
three measures. The irregular phrase will be again considered (in a
different aspect) in a later chapter.

The recognition of these syntactic traits of the melodic sentence is of
great moment to the player, for they constitute the information upon
which conscious, intelligent, effective _phrasing_ depends; and without
intelligent phrasing, without a clear exposition of the formation and
arrangement of the members and phrases, full comprehension and adequate
enjoyment of a musical composition is impossible.

* * * * * *

CONTENTS OF THE PHRASE. - The question may arise, what is it that makes
a phrase, - the rhythm, harmony, or melody? Strictly speaking, all
three; for music subsists in the ceaseless co-operation of these three
primary elements of composition, and no phrase is wholly complete
without the evidence of each and all. Generalizing the definitions
already given, the function of each of these primary elements may be
thus described: The element of harmony regulates the choice of the
tones that are to sound together; the upright shafts of tone (chords)
which determine the _body_, or framework, of the music. The element of
melody regulates the choice of single tones, selected from the
successive shafts of harmony, that are to form a connected line or
strand of tones (in horizontal order, so to speak), - something like a
chain or chains stretched from harmonic post to post, which describe
the figure or _outline_ of the musical image. The element of rhythm
gives the whole body its _life_, - regulates the choice of varying
lengths, defining the infinitely varied "tapping" of the musical

It is evident, from this, that no vivid, satisfying musical impression
can be created in the absence of any one of these essential elements.
But, for all that, they are not of equal importance; and, in
determining the extremities of the phrase (and of all other factors of
musical structure), the melody takes precedence over harmony and
rhythm. That is to say, that in his analysis of figures, motives,
phrases, periods, and so forth, the student's attention should be
centered upon the melody, - that chain of successive single tones which,
as repeatedly stated, usually describes the _uppermost_ line of the
harmonic and rhythmic body. That is the reason why the illustrations
given in this book are so frequently limited to the melody alone; it is
the pencil point which traces the design, describes the form, of the
musical composition.

LESSON 4. - Procure the _Jugend Album_, op. 68, of Schumann, and mark
the phrases in Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 18, 20, and others. In
the given numbers the phrases are all regular, - four measures in length.

Analyze in the same manner Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, Nos. 27,
22 (first phrase, five measures), 48, 28, 35, and others; occasional
irregularities may be encountered.

Also Beethoven, pianoforte sonata; op. 14, No. 2, second movement (C
major, _andante_); and op. 26, first movement.

A few cautious experiments may also be made in analyzing any
composition which the student may chance to be studying, especially if
not too elaborate. The necessary safeguard consists in simply passing
over every confusing point, limiting the analysis to those phrases that
are self defining, for the present, - until greater experience and
fuller information shall have been gained.


CADENCES IN GENERAL. - A cadence is the ending of a phrase. Strictly
speaking, every interruption or "break" between figures, and between
all melodic members, is a cadence; but the term "cadence" is applied to
nothing smaller than entire phrases.

The cadence is the point of Repose which creates the necessary contrast
with the condition of Action that prevails more or less constantly
during the phrase; and the effect of this point of repose is,
therefore, to separate one phrase from the next. The cadential effect
is generally produced by two or three chords, the last one of which is
called the cadence-chord, and stands, when the cadence is perfectly
regular, upon an accented beat of the final measure. This, according
to our definition of the phrase, will most commonly be the fourth

For example:

[Illustration: Example 18. Fragment of Schumann.]

The first chord in the fourth measure, on the accented beat, is the
"cadence-chord"; but the preceding chord (and possibly the one before
that, also) is naturally inseparable from the final one, and therefore
the entire cadence would be defined technically as embracing both (or
all three) of these chords. The effect of repose is obtained _by the
length of the final chord_, which exceeds that of any other melody tone
in the phrase; its time-value is a dotted quarter, because of the
preliminary tone (_e_, before the first accent) which, in the original
(op. 68, No. 28), precedes the next phrase in exactly the same manner.

Illustrations of the regular cadence will be found, also, in Ex. 15 and
Ex. 16; in the latter, - consisting as it does of four consecutive
phrases, four cadences occur, distinctly marked by the _longer tone_ on
the accented beat of each successive fourth measure.

characteristic indication of a cadence is the _longer tone_, seen in
the examples to which reference has just been made; for a tone of
greater length than its fellows is, in itself, the most conclusive
evidence of a point of repose, as compared with the shorter tones in
the course of the sentence, whose more prompt succession indicates the
action of the phrase. (See Ex. 29.)

From this the student is not to conclude that every long tone marks a
cadence. The rhythmic design of a melody is obtained by a constant
interchange of long and short tones, without direct reference to the
cadence alone; and numerous examples will be found in which tones of
equal, or even greater, length than the cadence-tone occur in the
course of the phrase. We have already seen that the end of a motive,
or even of a figure, may be marked by a longer tone, or its equivalent
in rests; and have been taught to expect a cadence in the fourth
measure only, as a rule.

But the direct evidence of a cadence afforded by a longer tone is
considered not only unnecessary, but in many cases distinctly
undesirable. While cadences are indispensable, in music of clearly
recognizable form, it is equally true that they must not be so emphatic
as to check the current of melody and harmony too frequently or
completely, or destroy the continuity and coherence of the members.
And it is therefore an almost invariable practice, especially in music
of a higher order, to modify and disguise the cadences by some means or
other; that is, to diminish the weight of the characteristic "longer
tone," - to counteract, partially or entirely, the impression of actual
cadential cessation, by continuing (instead of interrupting) the
rhythmic pulse. This is so very common, and so confusing a device,
that the effect of the various methods employed to conceal or disguise
a cadence must be thoroughly understood.

It is necessary to remember, always, the rule that governs the actual
body of the phrase, and its possible preliminary tones; namely, that
the vital, essential starting-point of a phrase (and other factors of
musical form) is _the first primary accent_, the first beat of the
first _full_ measure. The length of the phrase is reckoned from this
point, and consequently, the cadence-chord is entitled to all the beats
that remain, from its accent to the very end of the final measure. For

[Illustration: Example 19. Fragment of Mozart.]

In this case the cadence-chord is not modified or disguised in the
least, but takes full advantage of the six beats that make the sum of
the fourth measure.

This important fact concerning the actual value of the cadence-chord
remains unchanged, through all the licenses taken in disguising or
(apparently) diminishing its value. Whatever means may be resorted to,
in modifying the cadence, they do not alter the fact that _the
cadence-chord is always entitled to this full sum of beats_; and these
beats virtually represent the cadence-chord, either in its unchanged
form (as in Ex. 19 and Ex. 16) or in any of the manifold disguised
forms illustrated in the following examples.

One of the simplest forms is shown in Ex. 15: - The cadence-chord, on
the accented beat of the fourth measure, is entitled to the six beats
contained in that final measure. One beat is borrowed for the
preliminary tone of the next phrase (that does not appear in our
example, but corresponds to the preliminary tone at the beginning); and
three beats are represented by rests, which cancel the resonance of the
melody-tone _g_, but do not actually negate the effect of the
cadence-chord. In consequence of these two reductions, the time-value
of the _cadence-tone_ is diminished to two beats, and the whole cadence
assumes a lighter, less obstinate and stagnant character. Of the six
beats belonging to the cadence-chord, four are occupied by the tones of
the accompaniment, which thus serves to bridge over the measure of
repose without destroying the impression of a cadence.

The treatment of the cadence is similar to this in Ex. 18.

In Ex. 17, No. 1, the cadence-chord falls, properly, upon the primary
accent (first beat) of the final measure - in this instance the fifth
measure, as we have learned. The six beats to which it is entitled are
all occupied by the simple reiteration of the final melody tone, while
the sense of "interruption" is imparted by the long rest in the lower

It is by thus sustaining the rhythmic pulse, during the measure
allotted to the cadence-chord, that the desired dual impression, - that
of cadential interruption without actual cessation, - is secured. It is
like rounding off a corner that might otherwise be too angular or

* * * * * *

The question naturally arises: What tones are chosen to provide
material for this continuation of the rhythm? They are usually derived
from the cadence-chord, or its auxiliary embellishments; and the
methods employed may be classified as follows:

(1) The rhythmic pulse is marked in the accompanying (subordinate)
parts, as seen in Ex. 15, Ex. 18, and the following: -

[Illustration: Example 20. Fragment of Mendelssohn.]

[Illustration: Example 20 continued.]

The point of repose is marked by the longer melody tone _f_, on the
accent of the fourth measure. The value of the cadence-chord is
recorded, however, in the living tones of the accompanying figure,
which here (as in almost every similar case in composition) continues
its rhythmic movement undisturbed.

(2) The cadence-chord, or, more properly, the _cadence-tone_ in the
melody, is shifted to some later beat in the cadence measure. Thus:

[Illustration: Example 21. Fragment of Mozart.]

In this example there is in reality no irregularity, because the
cadence-tone rests upon an _accented beat_ (the fourth, in 6-8
measure), and the conditions of a cadence are fulfilled by _any_
accent, primary or secondary, of the final measure. But it belongs,
nevertheless, to this class of disguised cadences; for whatever
results, thus, in abbreviating the value of the cadence-chord, lightens
the effect of the cadence, and serves the desirable purpose so
persistently pursued by all good writers. Further: -

[Illustration: Example 22. Fragment of Beethoven.]

[Illustration: Example 22 continued. Fragments of Mendelssohn,
Schumann, and Mozart.]

Nos. 2 and 3 illustrate the method most commonly adopted in shifting
the cadence-tone forward to a later beat; namely, by placing an
embellishing tone (usually the upper or lower neighbor) of the
cadence-tone upon the accented beat belonging properly to the latter.
Nos. 4 and 5 are both extreme cases; the actual cadence-tone is shifted
to the very end of the measure, so that the effect of cadential
interruption is very vague and transient, - and will be quite lost
unless the player is intelligent enough to emphasize, slightly, the
phrasing (by making a distinct, though very brief, pause before
attacking the following measure). See also Ex. 17, No. 2, the first
phrase; here, again, the melody runs on (through tones which embellish
the cadence-chord, _f-a-c_) to the last 8th-note of the fourth measure.

(3) A certain - entirely optional - number of tones are borrowed from the
value of the cadence-chord, as _preliminary tones_ of the following
phrase. An illustration of this has already been seen in Ex. 14, No. 2
and No. 3. It is the employment of such preliminary tones, that, as
thoroughly explained in Chapter III, creates a distinction between the
_melodic_ beginning and the actual vital starting point of the phrase;
or that gives the phrase an apparently shifted location in its measures.

Further (the actual cadence-tone is marked): -

[Illustration: Example 23. Fragments of Beethoven and Mendelssohn.]

[Illustration: Example 23 continued. Fragment of Mendelssohn.]

No. 1 illustrates, again, the absence of preliminary tones in one
phrase, and their presence in the next. In each of these examples
(excepting, perhaps, No. 2) the cadence is so thoroughly disguised that
there is little, if any, evidence left of the "point of repose." In
No. 4, particularly, the cadence-measure is rhythmically the most

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryPercy GoetschiusLessons in Music Form → online text (page 3 of 10)