Friday 11-12:30 ET

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Poster Session 2: The Late 18th Century – And Beyond

Nathan Martin (University of Michigan), Chair

Sonata Form Without Main Theme

Christopher Segall (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music)

bio for Christopher Segall

Christopher Segall is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Cincinnati. He is contributing co-editor (with Inessa Bazayev) of Analytical Approaches to 20th-Century Russian Music: Tonality, Modernism, Serialism (Routledge, 2021). His research articles on Russian music theory, form theory, and transformational theory appear in the Journal of Music Theory, Journal of Musicology, Music Theory Online, Music Theory and Analysis, Music and Politics, Theoria, and Theory and Practice.


Theories of formal function view musical events in terms of beginnings, middles, and ends. These temporal locations are cued not just by literal position but also by musical characteristics. Form-functional theories furthermore posit that not all themes contain a beginning and a middle and an end. Some themes sound as though they begin “in the middle.” Lacking a beginning function, they start immediately with material associated with functional middles. I’ll expand this concept to a broader scale and examine sonata-form works whose expositions begin “in the middle,” bypassing main-theme function and proceeding directly to transition function. Such works—I offer Beethoven’s Op. 101 as a locus classicus—produce a complex temporal experience bound to a Romantic sensibility of listening and reinterpretation.

Supplementary Material(s)

Cadence as a Hypermetrical Focus

Ellen Bakulina (University of North Texas)

bio for Ellen Bakulina

Ellen Bakulina is assistant professor of music theory at the University of North Texas. She has published articles on classical form and rhythm, Schenkerian theory, Russian church music, Russian-language theories of music, tonality at the turn of the twentieth century, and the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Edward Klorman (McGill University)

bio for Edward Klorman

Edward Klorman is a music theorist and violist based at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Analysis and Performance. He is the author of Mozart's Music of Friends: Social Interplay in the Chamber Works and is currently writing a book on Bach's solo cello suites.


In the abundant literature on hypermeter, one aspect remains controversial—the cadence. Scholars have long debated about the normal hypermetrical placement of cadences. Some have argued that cadences are by definition accented (Riemann; Cone), others that the issue is stylistically contingent (Rothstein), while still others offer no preference whatsoever (Lerdahl/Jackendoff). Temperley (2003) and Ng (2012) have drawn attention to end-accent and resolution of ambiguity in closing sections. 

Our contribution focuses specifically on structural cadences (such as the EEC in Hepokoski/Darcy’s 2006 model of sonata form) and their potential to be disambiguating or focusing events. The tendency of subordinate themes toward loose-knit organization often introduces hypermetrical ambiguity, which is clarified precisely at the theme-ending cadence (i.e., the EEC). This cadence usually asserts a hyperdownbeat, thus triggering end-accented phrases in closing themes that Temperley (2003) has described. A “focal” cadence thus involves two things: a hypermetrical accent and a resolution of immediately preceding metrical conflicts. 

Three examples from late eighteenth-century instrumental music illustrate the argument; all of them have to do with subordinate themes. In W.A. Mozart’s sonata K. 457, irregular hypermeter and grouping resolves cadential arrival at m. 59, a hyperdownbeat. A similar scenario takes place in Hélène de Montgeroult’s sonata op. 1, no. 1. Finally, the subordinate theme in Mozart’s horn concerto K. 447 exhibits less ambiguity, but it does contain a hypermetrical reinterpretation at the focal EEC, which elides with the orchestral tutti. 

Supplementary Material(s)

Mixed Signals: Schematic and Form-Functional Ambiguity in the Keyboard Fantasias of C.P.E. Bach

Alan Elkins (Florida State University)


The free fantasias of C.P.E. Bach had a powerful impact on his listeners, eliciting both praise and censure for their departures from standard instrumental forms. Previous scholarship has acknowledged the ways in which Bach’s treatment of form in the free fantasia differs from more formularized genres, emphasizing liberties taken with meter, thematic material, and modulation (Head 1995; Richards 2001). However, some aspects of the fantasias are more closely in dialogue with conventional practices than is often stated, and little has been done to more systematically show the ways in which Bach evokes—and subsequently undercuts—the formal and schematic expectations that would have been familiar to his listeners.

Building on William Caplin’s work on formal function in Classical-era fantasias (Caplin 2018) and Robert Gjerdingen’s research on galant schemata (Gjerdingen 2007), I will show how C.P.E. Bach’s fantasias engage with eighteenth-century phrase-structural conventions while subverting them in ways that confound form-functional notions of beginning, middle, and end. I will focus on three of Bach’s strategies for altering the expected formal function of a passage: by tweaking an existing schema to alter its form-functional properties, by overlapping musical features that project contradictory formal functions, and by placing conventional harmonic paradigms in unconventional places. Bach’s invocation of galant phrase-structural conventions allowed him to play with the expectations of his listeners, resulting in music that sounded “free” while remaining comprehensible and striking a balance between the familiar and the unexpected.

A Context-Sensitive Approach to the Pre-Dominant Function

Jenine Brown (Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University)

bio for Jenine Brown

Jenine Brown is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, whose research can be read in journals including Music Theory Spectrum, Music Perception, the Journal of New Music Research, the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, and Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy. Brown currently serves as Secretary for MTSMA and Associate Editor of MTO.

Daphne Tan (University of Toronto)

bio for Daphne Tan

Daphne Tan is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Toronto. Her research explores questions about music and the mind, with methodologies and perspectives from the history of music theory and cognitive science. Her translation of Ernst Kurth’s Music Psychology, in collaboration with Christoph Neidhöfer, will appear in Spring 2022.


In western harmony textbooks, pre-dominant chords are typically organized according to a regulative syntax (e.g., IV goes to ii), yet the rationale for this syntax and the repertoire on which it is based is rarely explicit. Furthermore, the role of PDs beyond the phrase level is underexplored, be it in textbooks or corpus studies. 

Creating a novel dataset from sonata-form movements in Mozart’s piano sonatas, we catalogued all V chords plus the three chords preceding them. Chords before V are mediated by formal function: tonic is most frequent before non-cadential Vs, and ii is most frequent before cadential Vs. Further, different PDs signal the arrival of form-defining moments, e.g., V6/5/V and viio7/V occur at 91% of recapitulatory medial caesuras, despite their overall infrequency in the corpus. Similarly, the Aug6 is rare but almost always marks the arrival of new keys, suggesting that pedagogical emphasis on this harmony stems from its consistent formal context rather than frequency.

Our dataset can be sourced to explore claims about orderings within the PD function itself. For instance, IV–ii in any mode/inversion/seventh precedes V 10x more than ii–IV. Finally, we compared PDs in analogous parts of expositions and recapitulations, noting instances of harmonic intensifications (e.g., Ger+6 replacing ♭VI, viio7/V replacing ii6); most of these occur at the medial caesura and the close of subordinate themes. Our findings are suggestive for the perception of harmony at various form-functional levels. They also argue for a more context-sensitive approach to the teaching of tonal function.

Supplementary Material(s)

Deferred Tonic Returns in Maurice Ravel's Sonata Forms

Damian Blättler (Rice University)


This poster presents analyses of Maurice Ravel’s sonata-form movements in which the first theme is not recapitulated in stable tonic harmony, appearing instead in a different key or over a dominant pedal. This uncouples the components of the “double return” characteristic of most recapitulations, deferring tonic return until the second-theme reprise or, in four cases, the second theme’s final cadence. This recapitulatory strategy eliminates the “redundancy” of having the global tonic return at both the first- and second-theme reprises, and Ravel often combines it with processes in other musical domains that emphasize the deferred tonic return’s status as a singular event.

Ravel deploys this generically unconventional strategy more often than he does the standard double-return template. Recognizing this predilection can nuance conceptions of his formal practice as quasi-spatial (Puri 2012; Fillerup 2013) or as the pouring of content into adopted models (Orenstein 1975; Rosen 1979), spotlighting a teleological component to these forms that buttresses an understanding of Ravel’s forms as the intersection of multiple compositional processes/challenges (Kaminsky 2012, following Jankélévitch 1959) and fleshing-out our conception of the range of 20th-century treatments of compositional inheritances.

Supplementary Material(s)