A Guide to Musical Analysis

A Guide to Musical Analysis

A Guide to Musical Analysis

A Guide to Musical Analysis

Synopsis

This extremely practical introduction to musical analysis explores the factors that give unity and coherence to musical masterpieces. Having first identified and explained the most important analytical methods, Nicholas Cook examines given compositions from the last two hundred years to show how different analytical procedures suit different types of music.

Excerpt

There is something fascinating about the very idea of analyzing music. For music is surely among the most baffling of the arts in its power to move people profoundly whether or not they have any technical expertise or intellectual understanding of it. It moves people involuntarily, even subliminally, and yet all this is done by means of the most apparently precise and rational techniques. If a few combinations of pitches, durations, timbres and dynamic values can unlock the most hidden contents of man's spiritual and emotional being, then the study of music should be the key to an understanding of man's nature. Music is a code in which the deepest secrets of humanity are written: this heady thought assured musical studies their central place in ancient, medieval and renaissance thought. And though the study of music no longer occupies quite so elevated a role in intellectual circles, some of today's most important trends in the human sciences still owe it a debt. Structuralism is an example: you don't have to read a lot of Levi-Strauss to realize how great an influence music has had upon his thinking.

This book is altogether more modest in its purview, however. It is about the practical process of examining pieces of music in order to discover, or decide, how they work. And this is fascinating, because when you analyze a piece of music you are in effect recreating it for yourself; you end up with the same sense of possession that a composer feels for a piece he has written. Analyzing a Beethoven symphony means living with it for a day or two, much as a composer lives with a work in progress: rising with the music and sleeping with it, you develop a kind of intimacy with it that can hardly be achieved in any other way. You have a vivid sense of communicating directly with the masters of the past, which can be one of the most exhilarating experiences that music has to offer. And you develop an intuitive . . .

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