Academic journal article Music Theory Online

Review of Matthew Santa, Hearing Form: Musical Analysis with and without the Score (Routledge, 2010)

Academic journal article Music Theory Online

Review of Matthew Santa, Hearing Form: Musical Analysis with and without the Score (Routledge, 2010)

Article excerpt

[1] In the preface to his new textbook, Hearing Form: Musical Analysis With and Without the Score, Matthew Santa recounts how as a graduate student he took to heart a casual suggestion of Carl Schachter's that the best way to understand a score was to sing it from memory. "I decided to try it," he writes. "I discovered that much of what I learned about the music from score study could have just as easily been learned without the score, and that, more than anything else, the understanding of musical forms is what made the internalization of these scores possible. This is what led me to write the book you now have in your hand" (Santa 2010, xi).

[2] Santa's aim is to teach students to do just what he attempted-to identify phrase endings, cadences, sequences, modulations, formal sections, and musical forms with and without the score. This is a lofty and admirable goal. Too often students come away from analysis classes believing that analyzing form only means scanning a score and applying labels and that analysis is an activity separate from listening. We are better served if we begin the study of form by hearing (to use the word from Santa's title). We should train students to be attentive to the tendencies of musical materials and not only to the names we give them, and we should also encourage them to justify different interpretations rather than merely to seek the "right" answer. As Mary Wennerstrom has stated: "Labels can be liabilities if they are considered a final answer; they can also be the starting point of stimulating discussions in which the teacher and students are both learners" (Wennerstrom 2008, 19).

[3] Proceeding in this spirit, Santa's book surveys all the basic forms of tonal music in eight concise chapters, moving from small to large structures: first cadences and phrases, then periods and sentences, and on to binary and ternary forms, sonata forms, variation forms, imitative forms (including canon and fugue), concerto forms, and finally rondo forms. In content, therefore, it differs little from many textbooks on form, including Green 1979, Berry 1986, Kohs 1976, and Spring and Hutcheson 1994-though, unlike many form texts, it features a welcome discussion of form in pop and rock and jazz, as well as effective treatments of phrase rhythm, hypermeter, and musical topics. What truly distinguishes it, however, is that it also contains an anthology of 41 pieces spanning from Bach to Brahms, a set of online recordings accessible though a companion website (, a workbook appended to the back of the text, and an instructor's manual on CD-ROM, available upon request, which includes teaching strategies, a bank of tests and quizzes, and a guide to all of the homework assignments. The book is unique among form textbooks in being an all-in-one package-and at $78.95, it costs little more than many self-contained analytical anthologies and textbooks.

Example 1. Typical phrase diagramming assignment (Santa's Homework Assignment 1.2)

(click to enlarge and see the rest)

[4] Santa's pedagogical approach involves a "style of phrase diagramming," as he calls it, which is used consistently throughout the book. The style of diagramming is similar to what is taught informally in many form and analysis courses, where students draw slurs to indicate phrase lengths, labeling motives and main sections above and cadences and key areas below. The difference here is that those diagrams are partially filled in. The vast majority of assignments require students to listen to a piece while following along in the score, marking cadence points as they go, and then to put that information into an incomplete phrase diagram. Students may also, Santa notes, use these diagrams for ear-training purposes, filling them in without the score. Example 1 provides a typical phrase diagramming assignment, selected more or less at random. There are two benefits to this approach, according to Santa: it allows a teacher to streamline the grading process, since each student will not be turning in a unique diagram; and it directs students to a specific interpretation, leaving room, however, for differences of opinion, and hence for healthy discussion about interpretive choices. …

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