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Music Analysis in Theory and Practice by Jonathan Dunsby; Arnold Whittall

Review by: Alicyn Warren


Notes, Second Series, Vol. 49, No. 1 (Sep., 1992), pp. 154-156
Published by: Music Library Association
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154 NOTES, September 1992

within a contemporary critical context. "why-to-do-it." This infuriatingreversalof


Writers on music with a more socio- means and end-since everyone, Dunsby
historical orientation than Abbate's may and Whittallincluded (p. 4), profess the
well prefersuch models as Michel Foucault belief that analysis should serve and aug-
or Theodor Adorno, whose own volumi- ment our understandingand appreciation
nous musicological writingshave only re- of works of musical art-amounts to bad
centlybegun to affectmusicstudyin North analysis. Perhaps this project was doomed
America. from the start.
What mattersis not so much the analyst's The book does not provide a historyof
particularorientationas his or her open- music theory (although it begins with a
ness to new ways of approaching music, helpful"shortsurvey"chapter on thatsub-
including ways that have been developed delib-
ject). Rather, it is a self-consciously,
outside music studyaltogether.Afterread- erately incomplete overview of a wide
ing Abbate's study, one realizes that tra- range of analyticalmethodsdeveloped over
ditional modes of musical analysisare nei- the past hundred years, including aspects
theras "natural" nor as "common-sensical" of tonal theory, atonal and twelve-tone
as their practitionersmay take pride in analysis,and semioticapproaches to music.
thinking,that these modes are themselves Not surprisingly,the hero of the book's
the productsof earliertimesthatimprinted section on tonal music is Heinrich Schen-
theirown biases on them. It is a tributeto ker. In addition to placing Schenker his-
this trailblazingstudythat the questions it torically,the authors give a clear introduc-
raises go well beyond the worksit seeks to tion to graphingtechnique,and emphasize
illuminate,that it will, in fact, make Ab- thathierarchicallevels are meaningfulpri-
bate's fellow practitionersask where pre- marilyin relation to one another. Unfor-
cisely the boundaries of their discipline tunately,here as elsewhere, the transpar-
now lie. ency of the textis clouded by a reluctance
HERBERT LINDENBERGER to definesignificantterms("voice-leading,"
StanfordUniversity for example). This may be a consequence
of the book's confusionover its identity:is
it a textbookor not? Its authors claim it is
not, but theirconcern with"practice"sug-
Music Analysis in Theory and Prac- gests such use. As it stands, though, the
tice. By Jonathan Dunsby and Arnold pervasivenessof undefinedtechnicalterms
Whittall. New Haven: Yale University means thatthe book mightbe best used by
Press, 1988. [250 p. ISBN 0-300- advanced undergraduate or beginning
03713-9. $30.00.] graduate students.
Its overviewquality enables Music Anal-
There is a confusion about identityand ysisin Theoryand Practiceto attemptsome-
purpose in this dense, ambitious book by thing unusual: not just straightforward
the eminent and active British team, comparison of analyses by differenttheo-
JonathanDunsby and Arnold Whittall(the rists,but the illuminationof one scholar's
founders and editors of the journal Music work by the brightlight of another. As a
Analysis).A better title would be "Music general approach, this works well; but oc-
Analysisin Practice": this is a "how-to-do- casionally Dunsby and Whittall'sopinions
it" manual. However, in theirintroduction and combinationsseem arbitraryor incon-
the authors state that theirbook "attempts sistent. For example, the authors are le-
to provoke thought about analysis,a con- nientwithFelix Salzer (it is permissiblefor
stant attention to premiss and goal, a him to "interpretthe music" rather than
continual musical and intellectual self- "impose a theoreticalor analyticalconcept"
awareness" (p. 9). The book does provoke [p. 60]), but in the chapter followingthey
the reader, but only throughits own stolid blame Donald Francis Tovey for the "star-
inattentionto analytical assumptions and vation" of Britishtheory,on the grounds
aims. Its use of musical works as mere thathe "offeredno allegedlysystematican-
means to an end-that end being the dem- alyticaltheory" (p. 72). By contrast,their
onstrationof analyticaltechnique-consti- conjunction of a Schenkerian hierarchical
tutes avoidance of the crucial question of structure with Leonard Meyer's melodic

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Book Reviews 155

implication-realization analysis(pp. 96-99) thors begin this type of analysis without


is convincingand thought-provoking. preparation; in this case, unfortunately,
The presentation of classic examples some background historywould have been
fromthe analyticalliterature(representing especiallyhelpful.The uncomfortablefit(if
a mixtureof analyses by the authors and it can even be called that) between method
others) is a strong point of both of the and music here isn't surprising,given that
book's main sections ("Aspects of Tonal the methodwas developed in applicationto
Analysis" and "The Elements of Atonal- music quite differentfrom the music en-
ity").However,the lattersectionscrutinizes listed by the authors.
complete miniatures by Arnold Schoen- Dunsby and Whittall'spreferenceforsta-
berg and Anton Webern, while the chap- tisticalor so-called "neutral" methods (for
ters on tonal music offer excerpts from example, proportional analysis, semiotics,
larger works. From an evaluative stand- and Forte's brand of pitch-classset theory)
point,thereare manyparallelsbetweenthis is indicative of the overall tone of their
section of the book and the previous one. book. Vexing language-constructions im-
Dunsby and Whittallgive lucid and careful plying that analytical observations and
explanations of knottyconcepts such as methodsaccountforthe pitchesin a piece-
normal order, prime form,intervalvector, permeates the chapters on the analysis of
nexus sets (Schenker as protagonist has atonal music. (My favoriteof these is the
been replaced by Allen Forte), and (in the cautionaryremark that "a single set com-
chapter on twelve-toneanalysis) the inter- plex may not be equivalent to the entire
dependency of invariance,symmetry,and piece" [p. 146]). Although the authors ac-
complementation. Their introduction to knowledge (at least twice) that music is
number notation (for pitch classes and in- somethingwe listento, theyrepeatedlyex-
tervals) is especially clear, and it is frus- hortthe reader to examine a piece's twelve-
tratingthat theydrop this "power tool" as tone set prior to any experience (aural or
soon as they'veturned it on. On the down otherwise) with the composition itself.
side, some central terms (such as "ex- They seem most comfortablewhen simply
tended" and "implicit"tonality,and "mo- tabulatingthe verifiableresultsof colorless
tive") take a long time to come into focus; observational methods; this aligns with
and most disturbingly,interpretationsof theirassertionthat making interpretations
quotes by other theorists(Schoenberg on of analyticalobservationswithoutthe ben-
retaining"tonal" forms in an atonal con- efitof a comprehensivetheory(remember
text,and Fred Lerdahl and RayJackendoff poor Tovey!) entails a "constant, logical
on perceived meter in atonal music) don't flaw" (p. 73).
always match the quotes themselves. The tonal analysis section of the book
The later chapters of Music Analysisin closes with a directivewhich seems made
Theoryand Practiceexhibit some decidedly in a similar spirit: that studentsrecognize
unattractive features. Throughout the "the boundaries between analysisand crit-
book, the authors gaze out of borrowed icism" (p. 102). If the authors had elected
German eyes,whose visionis aided (helped to "move freelybut consciouslyacross these
or occluded, depending on one's point of boundaries," as they themselves recom-
view)by lenses ground and polished at Yale mend, their book would have been much
Universityover the past twentyyears. No- less frustrating.For analysiscannot flourish
where is the effectof these spectaclesmore in a vacuum; its process mustbe a respon-
evident than in the atonal and twelve-tone sive one, thatis, sensitiveto musical works,
chapters,where ground-breakingwork by to listeners'interpretiveresponses both to
Milton Babbitt,Frank Lewin, Donald Mar- those works, and to theoretical generali-
tino, Peter Westergaard,and others is ir- zations about them; and its ultimate pur-
responsiblyignored (the book boasts an ex- pose must be to animate and individuate
tensivebut slanted bibliography).Another compositions.Otherwise,analysisindulges
"credit"oversightconcerns the durational/ in a lonely celebration of its own internal
proportional method of analysis, which consistency. Dunsby and Whittall's too-
keeps coming back like a recurring bad literalview of the developmenttheycite as
dream in these finalchapters. In a depar- launching their book-the "emergence of
ture from their usual procedure, the au- analysisas a pursuit 'in its own right'" (p.

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156 NOTES, September 1992

16), the new identityof analysisas a "dis- is accomplished (including the wonderful
tinct discipline"-may have caused Music concept of an apophrades, by whichan artist
Analysisin Theoryand Practiceto misfire. actually incorporatesan earlier work into
ALICYN WARREN a piece-by eitherquotationor allusion-in
of Virginia such a way as to create the illusion that it
University
is in facta consequent of the newer work;
in short,thatthe chronologicalorder of the
pieces is reversed). To his credit, Straus
Remaking the Past: Musical Modern- uses only what is applicable from Bloom's
ism and the Influence of the Tonal criticaltoolkit,and as a result, the inter-
Tradition. By Joseph N. Straus. Cam- change between literaryand musical dis-
bridge, Mass.: Harvard University course flows naturally.
Press, 1990. [ix, 207 p. ISBN 0-674- Straus presents his case for modernism
75990-7. $30.00.] as re-creationvia a series of steps. First,he
shows how composers such as Arnold
A book such as this is long overdue. Jo- Schoenbergmade analytic"misreadings"of
seph Straus takes the courageous step of earlier works, minimizingfactorsof func-
interpretingmusical modernism not as a tion and voice-leading in Mozart, Beet-
wholesale denial of the common practice hoven, and Brahms in order to highlight
tradition,but rather as a highly original motivicorganization.Straus then moves to
reinterpretation of it. By examiningworks "recompositions"such as Stravinsky'sPul-
of Igor Stravinsky,Bela Bart6k, and the cinella and Schoenberg's Concerto for
second Viennese school (for the most part String Quartet and Orchestra after Han-
up to mid-century), he makes the case that del, demonstratinghow twentieth-century
modernism could not exist withoutprevi- orchestration,arrangement,and alteration
ous models on which to play. The resultis contrive to "neutralize" the sources' orig-
a book that is particularlyinvigoratingat inal meanings. (For example, Straus shows
our presentjuncture, given both the cre- how many of the static harmonic accom-
ative "historicizing"so much in evidence in paniments in Pulcinella are derived from
contemporary composition, and the in- pitchsets implicitin the same passages' me-
creasingly"contextual" approach to anal- lodic motives.)Chapters followon the use
ysisthat has taken root in new criticaland of triads,sonata forms,quotation, middle-
theoreticalwriting. ground strategiesanalogous to tonal pro-
Like several other recentauthors,Straus gression,and modelingon previous pieces.
sees potentialfora freshanalyticapproach So farso good. But a weaknessin Straus's
in literarytheories; in this case the inspi- project emerges as we examine his meth-
ration is Harold Bloom. Bloom's theoryof odology. He consistentlyemploys tech-
artisticinfluencelooms particularlyimpor- niques of set theoryto support his points,
tant. Rather than either an organic elab- but little else. Thus, while almost every-
oration upon the work of past masters,or thing he discovers is "true," other impor-
an unassuming but conscious tribute("in- tant insightsare often overlooked, espe-
fluence as immaturity"or "influence as cially in the case of composers whose
generosity"), modernism partakes of an practiceis closer (at least on the surface) to
"influence of anxiety,"a deliberate, even tonal practice, specificallyStravinskyand
desperate struggleto overcome the power of Bart6k. To take one instance, Straus an-
one's predecessors. In this scenario, there alyzesthe opening E-minortriadfromSym-
emerges an almost Oedipal conflict be- phonyofPsalmsas a trichordalsubset of the
tween the younger artistand his "creative octatonicscale, with the final G-major ca-
father,"in whichthe formertakesthe work dence being a shiftof trichordalpartition-
of the latter and "remakes" it in his own ing. Straus concludes: "He [Stravinsky]lib-
image,causing us as perceiversto accept his erates the triad from its usual context,
own interpretation. Anotherwayto express paralyzes its tonal implications,and rede-
this is to say the artist deliberately"mis- finesit in new musical terms"(pp. 89-90).
reads" the past so as to reach a personal But do we thereforehear no vestigesof
accord with it. Bloom has a full rhetorical traditionalpractice,even if the context is
vocabularyforthe techniquesby whichthis so altered? Isn't it possible that the

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