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The Period and Cyclic Form in the Nineteenth Century

William Caplin (McGill University), Chair

Romantic Periods

Diego Cubero (University of North Texas)


This paper examines the transformation of the classical theme-type known as the period in the music of the first romantic generation. Whereas in classical periods the antecedent phrase is harmonically closed-off from the beginning of the consequent phrase, in romantic periods the end of the antecedent often connects with the beginning of the consequent to form a continuous harmonic progression. Voice-leading analyses illustrate three different ways through which the romantics joined the two phrases of a period. The most basic of these is by eliding the antecedent’s closing dominant with a V-I progression at the beginning of the consequent. A related means is by prolonging the antecedent’s closing dominant through the beginning of the consequent and then resolving it to a tonic triad. A more radical deformation involves ending the antecedent phrase on a predominant harmony and then continuing the motion from the predominant through a dominant to a tonic triad in the consequent phrase. By joining the end of the antecedent to the beginning of the consequent and forming a continuous progression, the romantics undermined the clear harmonic boundary that separates the two phrases of a classical period. In so doing they transformed the period from a theme-type that epitomized the classical aesthetic of balance and clarity into one that manifested what Rothstein (2006) has described as the “the Romantic urge toward the boundless."

Periodically Asymmetrical: On the Analytical Implications of an Expanded Antecedent

Xieyi (Abby) Zhang (Georgia State University)

Abby Zhang is an Assistant Professor in Music Theory at Georgia State University. Abby completed his Ph.D. at the CUNY Graduate Center. His main research concerns musical form in the nineteenth century, especially the music of Dvořák, and he is also interested in the study of Christian hymns and worship songs.


Current-day discussions of expanded antecedent-consequent periods generally require some expansion to take place in the consequent; the possibility of an expanded antecedent followed by a consequent of standard length remains unaddressed. This new category subverts the period’s usual phrase-rhythmic narrative, which typically interprets the consequent as operating from norms set by the antecedent. Instead, these standard consequents adopt a more active role in “fixing” the expanded antecedent’s protracted length.

This paper examines periods in which an expanded antecedent comes before a standard consequent. Drawing primarily from Dvořák, a composer whose music contains many antecedent expansions, I begin by exploring three types of phrase expansions that may arise in the antecedent: an internal phrase expansion before the antecedent’s cadence, a cadence-altering suffix, and a post-cadential extension. Following this exploration, I demonstrate the analytical possibilities of this phrase expansion using the opening movement of Dvořák’s Wind Serenade.

Global Double Cycle and Damaged-Global Double Cycle as Representations of Fate in Nineteenth-Century Opera

Levi Walls (University of North Texas)

Levi Walls is a third year PhD student in Music Theory at University of North Texas. His related field is English literature. His research interests include semiotics, literary theory, the intersection of music and literature, and voice-leading structure in 19th-century opera. He currently works as the editor of Harmonia, and is happy to attend this year's conference from home so that he doesn't have to leave his eight-month old daughter, Ophelia.


In this paper, I expand upon the terminology surrounding David Lawton’s concept of “double cycle”—a recurrent tonal structure within an opera that suggests a parallel between two parts of the narrative. A “global double cycle,” as I call it, is a parallel between the structure of the first act and that of the opera as a whole. A background structure in the first act that grows to embody the entire composition serves as an eloquent representation of fate, which the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus defined as the necessary conclusion brought about by a person’s character. Consequently, nineteenth-century operas dealing with fate sometimes feature a character-building phase (the opening act) that structurally mirrors the culmination (the work as a whole). This compositional technique takes its cues from the wider world of literature, in which the presence of fate is often alluded to through a beginning-ending parallelism—for instance, a thematic connection between the first and last sentences of a novel. After illustrating what a global double cycle looks like—using Les Troyens (1858) by Hector Berlioz as an example—I will consider the semiotic capabilities of a would-be global double cycle that fails to materialize. A “damaged-global double cycle”—my proposed term for a cycle with a marked flaw—can serve as a representation of averted fate, as it does in La Esmeralda (1836) by Louise Bertin.