Musical Form, Forms & Formenlehre - paperback

Musical Form, Forms & Formenlehre - paperback: Three Methodological Reflections

William E. Caplin
James Hepokoski
James Webster
EDITED BY Pieter Bergé
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 180
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    Musical Form, Forms & Formenlehre - paperback
    Book Description:

    The tone of the debates among Caplin, Hepokoski, and Webster (in the form of comments on each author's essay and then responses to the comments), though tactful, is obliquely blunt and tendentious; like the best of tennis pros, each author strives to serve an ace and defends the net against a passing shot (with Caplin, the ace is for formal function; with Hepokoski for Sonata Theory and dialogic form; with Webster for multivalent analysis). But we can trust that this provocative exchange will thoroughly invigorate discussions about classical form and encourage diverse approaches to its analysis. - Janet Schmalfeldt, In the Process of Becoming. Analytical and Philosophical Perspectives on Form in Early Nineteenth-Century Music (Oxford Studies in Music Theory), 2011, p. 15 In Musical Form, Forms & Formenlehre: Three Methodological Reflections, three eminent music theorists consider the fundamentals of musical form. They discuss how to analyze form in music and question the relevance of analytical theories and methods in general. They illustrate their basic concepts and concerns by offering some concrete analyses of works by Mozart (Idomeneo Overture, Jupiter Symphony) and Beethoven (First Symphony, Pastoral Symphony, Egmont Overture, and Die Ruinen von Athen Overture). The volume is divided into three parts, focusing on Caplin’s “theory of formal functions,” Hepokoski’s concept of “dialogic form,” and Webster’s method of “multivalent analysis” respectively. Each part begins with an essay by one of the three authors. Subsequently, the two opposing authors comment on issues and analyses they consider to be problematic or underdeveloped, in a style that ranges from the gently critical to the overtly polemical. Finally, the author of the initial essay is given the opportunity to respond to the comments and to refine further his own fundamental ideas on musical form.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-004-6
    Subjects: Music
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface (pp. 7-10)
    Ludwig Holtmeier
  4. Prologue Considering Musical Form, Forms and Formenlehre (pp. 11-18)
    Pieter Bergé

    Defining the concept of ‘musical form’ is a precarious enterprise. Many musicologists and theorists have undertaken it and have inevitably confronted the question, what is musical form? In most cases, however, this central question does not persist for long. Often, it is evaded almost immediately and rephrased as a question (or group of questions) that tries to circumscribe how musical form isgenerated, how it isconstituted, how itfunctions, and so forth. In the essays presented in this volume, a similar shift can be observed more than once. William E. Caplin, for instance, launches his essay “What Are Formal...

  5. Part I. William E. Caplin & The Theory Of Formal Functions
    • What Are Formal Functions? (pp. 21-40)
      William E. Caplin

      The question posed in the title of this essay should, by all rights, have been answered in my treatiseClassical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.¹ Yet in a number of respects, this study did not sufficiently address the central concept of myFormenlehre. Indeed, I toyed with the idea of writing a summational chapter on general notions of formal functionality; but, to be frank, I was exhausted with the project after working on it for many years, and, more importantly, I was aware that I had still not adequately developed...

    • Comments on William E. Caplin’s Essay “What Are Formal Functions?” (pp. 41-45)
      James Hepokoski

      While the practice of Sonata Theory resonates in some substantial ways with William E. Caplin’s form-functional theory, there are also a number of foundational areas in which these approaches diverge markedly. Some of these conceptual divergences have far-reaching consequences, and in this reply it would misrepresent the issues to downplay them. No close reader of the form-functional method could fail to observe (and admire) its rigorous logic and the single-minded insistences that drive its analytical ramifications. Once its premises and definitions are accepted and placed beyond question, all else follows: the dominos fall, one by one. But from the Sonata-Theory...

    • Comments on William E. Caplin’s Essay “What Are Formal Functions?” (pp. 46-50)
      James Webster

      William E. Caplin’s essay further develops the careful and patient classifications that characterize hisClassical Form. Many of the principles and methods expounded are illuminating. These include his analytical multivalence, his distinction between ‘tight’ and ‘ loose’ construction, and his well-grounded skepticism regarding many familiar notions in formal analysis, particularly the so-called closing group and the supposedly foundational role of musical ideas (and of distinctions among different types of themes) in creating form. I shall take all this for granted, and focus instead on the underlying argument, in which certain issues of logic and aesthetics seem to me not satisfactorily...

    • Response to the Comments (pp. 51-68)
      William E. Caplin

      I thank my colleagues for their thoughtful and serious commentaries. Their remarks highlight crucial issues facing the contemporary Formenlehre and afford me the opportunity of clarifying and elaborating some of the positions that I staked out in my opening essay. In this response, I address what I take to be the major points of contention raised by my colleagues. These include the general goals of music theory, the specific goals of a theory of musical form, the experience of musical time, the relation of formal functionality to other aspects of form (formal type, thematic content, grouping structure), and the organization...

  6. Part II. James Hepokoski & The Concept Of Dialogic Form
    • Sonata Theory and Dialogic Form (pp. 71-89)
      James Hepokoski

      The analytical procedure that we call Sonata Theory rethinks several postulates of traditional music analysis.¹ While it adopts the precision-language of current music theory, its reprocessing of core analytical issues is also informed by broader work in literary criticism and philosophy: genre theory, phenomenological and reader-response theory, hermeneutics, and others. The result blends close analytical description with the larger perspectives of continental criticism. While I cannot lay out the system or even a sufficient number of its essential concepts in any brief essay, I can at least illustrate a few of its central modes of thinking.

      The most basic question...

    • Comments on James Hepokoski’s Essay “Sonata Theory and Dialogic Form” (pp. 90-95)
      William E. Caplin

      In his essay, James Hepokoski makes a persuasive case that his preferred analytical methodology—‘dialogic form’—offers significant advantages over earlier procedures, such as the ‘conformational’ and ‘generative’ approaches identified by Mark Evan Bonds [>72].¹ As Hepokoski clearly shows, a dialogic approach powerfully engages an articulated theoretical background with a flexible analytical application in ways that highlight the formal individuality of a musical work. And his moving beyond purely formal explanations into the realm of hermeneutic analysis enriches his methodology all the more.

      Indeed, I am sympathetic to Hepokoski’s dialogic approach and believe that my own analyses largely follow the...

    • Comments on James Hepokoski’s Essay “Sonata Theory and Dialogic Form” (pp. 96-100)
      James Webster

      James Hepokoski’s essay is based on his and Warren Darcy’s new and manifestly important treatiseElements of Sonata Theory. I shall restrict myself to two brief comments: on his interpretation of the ‘sonata principle’ (with respect toEgmont), and on the concept of ‘dialogic form’ (with respect toDie Ruinen von Athen).

      Egmont. The (unfortunately named) ‘sonata principle’ was introduced by Edward T. Cone in 1968—“important statements made in a key other than the tonic must either be re-stated in the tonic, or brought into a closer relation with the tonic, before the movement ends”—and rapidly became an...

    • Response to the Comments (pp. 101-120)
      James Hepokoski

      William E. Caplin’s comments on my essay “Sonata Theory and Dialogic Form” reaffirm his belief in the priority of ‘formal functions’ over ‘formal types.’ His discussions of the three overtures in question, though—particularly that ofIdomeneo—fail to demonstrate the persuasiveness of such a style of analysis. Instead, they can suggest the opposite: the pitfalls of relying exclusively on the form-functional method. The larger issue in play here is not that method’s particularities, which can often be very helpful. Rather, it is that within any method it is inadvisable to pursue formal analysis by extracting an individual work out...

  7. Part III. James Webster & The Concept Of Multivalent Analysis
    • Formenlehre in Theory and Practice (pp. 123-139)
      James Webster

      During the second half of the twentieth century, theories of musical form were by and large consideredpasséin English-speaking countries, whether by Schenkerians (especially orthodox Schenkerians), who believed that they had overcome bad old analytical and theoretical traditions; or by postmodern writers, who tend to disdain analysis of ‘the music itself’ altogether. With the revival of interest in Tovey and other older writers, however, and the publication of such major contributions as Charles J. Smith’s “Musical Form and Fundamental Structure: An investigation of Schenker’sFormenlehre” (1996), William E. Caplin’s Classical Form (1998), and James Hepokoski’s and Warren Darcy’sElements...

    • Comments on James Webster’s Essay “Formenlehre in Theory and Practice” (pp. 140-145)
      William E. Caplin

      The essay by James Webster raises significant issues for the theory and analysis of musical form. His advocacy of a ‘multivalent’ analytical approach has proven insightful not only for the two works that he analyzes there, but throughout his numerous writings on classical and romantic music. It is interesting to observe, however, that while his title includes the word ‘theory,’ its contents largely concern analysis.¹ “Multivalent analysis (…) is not a theory, but a method” [>129]. True enough, but this begs the question, what theory of musical form underlies the method? If the theory is not explicitly formulated, it should...

    • Comments on James Webster’s Essay “Formenlehre in Theory and Practice” (pp. 146-151)
      James Hepokoski

      James Webster’s outline of the issues surrounding the concept ofFormenlehreand its recent revivals has much to commend it, and he brings both a generous wealth of experience and a great deal of common sense to the table in his discussion. There is much in this essay—particularly his sensitive overview in its initial pages—with which I agree. What will interest the reader here, however, is not a recounting of my many areas of support for Webster’s points but rather a look at those portions of the essay for which the Sonata-Theory analytical style would offer differing views....

    • Response to the Comments (pp. 152-164)
      James Webster

      William E. Caplin states at the beginning of his response that “while [Webster’s] title includes the word ‘theory,’ its contents largely concern analysis” [>140]. This appears to bracket my entire first (and indeed longer) part, devoted to a survey of general notions of form andFormenlehre, including related concepts such as structure vs. process; the general vs. the particular; and genres, types, and contexts; if this isn’t ‘theory,’ I don’t know what is. By contrast, he is correct when, a few lines later, he notes that I have “generally been reluctant to propose a systematicFormenlehre” [>140]. The issue is...

  8. Epilogue The Future of Formenlehre (pp. 165-170)
    Pieter Bergé

    The main objective of the present volume was to confront different theories and methodologies of musical form. The three authors invited to participate in this discussion—William E. Caplin, James Hepokoski and James Webster—were requested first to present their own fundamental positions on the subject, then to critique the viewpoints of their colleagues, and finally to refute—or, eventually, incorporate—the comments on their own opening essays that their peers had put forward.¹ This rather unusual procedure of ‘direct’ engagement has clearly stimulated the participants to support their theoretical and methodological premises with the greatest possible rigor. Especially in...

  9. Bibliography (pp. 171-176)
  10. About the Authors (pp. 177-180)


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