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Analysing Classical Sonatas - The Sentence

Music Analysis

Date : 28/11/2017


Author Information

Uploaded by : Juan
Uploaded on : 28/11/2017
Subject : Composition

Analysing Classical Sonatas - The Sentence

Analysing Classical Sonatas - The Sentence


Schoenberg was the first theorists in forging the concept of sentence. The Sentence is a type of theme. Themes are made up of phrases. The sentence according to Schoemberg contains two phrases:



, but uses three functions:




The sentence, by definition, comprises 8 real measures and begins with a presentation phrase. The presentation phrase starts with a basic idea which is then repeated. The basic idea s repetition can be labeled as:


Statement - response


The main harmonic progression of the presentation is tonic prolongational.

The presentation phrase is then followed by a continuation one which is made up of a continuation plus cadential functions.

PRESENTATIONThe basic ideaWith 2 measures, the basic idea is:

Big enough to contain motives

Small enough to build up phrases

The melodic content used for a basic idea can be:

Characteristic: it uniquely defines a theme as an individual

Conventional: used for passage work

The basic idea is much more than its tunes. To correctly identify the basic idea, it is important to check if all its main features are present.

Type of repetitionsExact: The harmonic support is kept intact. The melodic line can be transposed.

Statement- response: The statement and response can also be termed a tonic version and a dominant version respectively.

Sequential repetition / model-sequence technique: Both the melody and the harmony are transposed by the same interval and direction. Because the overall harmonic support of a presentation phrase must be tonic prolongational, sequential repetition (with its implied sequential progression) is rarely used at the beginning of the sentence. When it is, the sense of a broader tonic prolongation usually emerges at some later point within the theme.

To define the type of repetition used both the harmony and the melody should be assessed.

Harmonic sequence is a particular way of arranging a succession of harmonies according to a consistent root motion (such as descending fifths, or ascending steps). Model-sequence technique is a form of repetition: a given unit (model) is repeated through a complete transposition of its content (sequence).

Tonic prolongationThe presentation phrase always involve a tonic-prolongational progression. If the response version of the basic idea is supported by the dominant, then we will find the recapping tonic later on in the theme.

CONTINUATION FUNCTIONWe can identify and differentiate the continuation phrase from the presentation phrase mainly due to one, some or all the following 4 features:

Fragmentation: The process of making the 2m unit (basic idea) shorter. These fragments will be made clearer through repetition.Acceleration of the harmonic rhythmAcceleration of the surface rhythmic activity: Particularly effective in the absence of harmonic accelerationSequential harmonies: Are very rarely used in simple 8m sentences. They are more commonly used in extended sentences.

CADENTIAL FUNCTIONCadence typesPerfect Authentic Cadence (PAC): it ends in the tonicImperfect Authentic Cadence (IAC): it ends most commonly on the thirdHalf Cadence (HC): it ends in the dominant

The melodic contour of the cadence is typically descending as opposite to the presentation one which is ascending.

During the cadential function, the liquidation process will become prominent. The liquidation process affects the characteristic melody in particular

Expanded cadential progression (ECP)An ECP occurs when the cadential function takes over the continuation one. It most commonly happens when a cadential progression starts on m. 5.

It is notated with ECP at the lower right of the first harmony in the progression.

Modulating Sentence

Modulating SentenceSometimes the sentence can modulate to a neighbouring key region, most commonly the dominant.

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