Monday, August 15, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth: Allegro, III

This is hard. It is becoming apparent to me that I am multi-tasking. I'm not good at multi-tasking [For some reason, people seem to assume that because I'm not singing, they can engage me in a conversation while I'm performing. They are shocked when I stop playing to speak with them. They think performing solo calssical guitar pieces is some kind of mindless mantra, I'm guessing]. I much prefer to concentrate on one thing at a time. In this project, a few of the things I'm trying to get a handle on - aside from the profound intracacies the music of Beethoven, of course - are 1] Developing analysis symbology that is expressible with the characters on a QWERTY keyboard, 2] Developing consistent analysis symbology, and 3] Becoming consistent with my application of that analysis symbology. Those are three very different things to me.

I'm certain, therefore, that this "liveblogging" of my analysis of The Ninth is just the most agonizingly grotesque manifestation of what the end result will turn out to be: Revisions and backtracking are inevitable, I'm afraid. With that in mind, I will continue with my shoot-from-the-hip, scatershot/blunderbuss, bull-in-a-china-closet, "so-called" analysis.

Thanks. That was a cleansing experience (Deeeep breaths). I feel better now. Shall we?



At measure 63, we continue with cadential episode two, which begins on the dominant level. This is the episode that started it all: I wanted to take a look-see at this to get some understanding of the linear cadential techniques that B employed so evocatively here in order to come up with some of my own ideas along these lines. Uh... it got out of hand.

The asterisk I have put in measure 64 is to mark the linear progression of an augmented second. You'll see a lot of these, as it seems that there are exactly zero raised sixth degrees in this movement. Just an interesting feature I want to keep track of.

All of the analysts I'm aware of who have tackled this passage before me have skipped over the quantum mechanics of the middle two measures, and just call these four measures a V to i. I, personally, hear alternating dominant and tonic harmonies here, swinging like a pendulum back and forth. That's exactly what a detailed look reveals.

The repeat of the phrase at measure 67 - with variation, of course - involves some arbitrary labelling due to Beethoven's consistent use of the trait of incompleteness, which I have mentioned several times previously. The final measure has one of those puzzling features I can wrap my brain around from a twenty-first century musician's point of view, but I really don't know how B related to this: I'm speaking of the hybrid structure of E-flat diminished over F. I use stuff like this all the time, but here, in this stark isolation, I am reduced to concluding that it is just Beethoven the "Tone Poet" doing his thing. If anyone has a penetrating analysis of this measure to offer, I'd certainly like to entertain your ideas. I must admit to having agonized over this for quite some time, which significantly delayed this particular posting.

Beginning in measure 71, Beethoven begins to effect a modulation to B-flat major, but he is also doing much more, as always. First of all, the vii(dm4/3) is mislabelled (Just noticed that). It is actually a iv diminished minor seventh, which progress by strong root motion to the bVII. Yes, I'll have to fix that, but back to the point: The bVII is actually a prefiguring. It really intimates the V/bIII, and it will in fact return later to fulfill that promise.

Immediately after introducing that temproarily frustrated "wanna-be-a-dominant" sonority on bVII, B uses a V(4/3/b)/V (Which is traditioanlly called a French Sixth chord) to get to the real dominant that is the goal here.

As an aside, I must tell you that this phrase was an exciting discovery for me. Years ago, I got into an arguement with my mentor, Dr. Gene Cho, over the origin of the so-called French Sixth. I postulated that it was the second inversion of the diminished minor seventh located on the second degree of the minor scale (Aolean mode) with a raised third, which made it just an altered secondary dominant sonority. Dr. Cho would never agree to this, considering that it was a purely contrapuntal concept, and that no classical-era composers thought of this relationship. Well, here's proof that they did: B first uses the diminished minor seventh in second inversion to target the bVII, and then he makes it into a V(4/3/b)/V on the repeat to target the new V. I rest my case.

With the modulation to B-flat major, the second confirmation of the significance of the E-flat introduced back in measure 24 (As part of the Neapolitan Sixth sonority) comes to fruition. The first was the prefiguration of this modulation with the second statement of t1a and t2 on this level starting in measure 51. This pitch of E-flat will return many times in just about every concievable guise as we progress through this movement: It is the organizational locus of this piece's entire development.

The first thing that appears with this development is the tender and merciful t3. After all of the horrifying tension that Beethoven constantly returns to in this movement, this is a welcome relief (And, we'll encounter it again, of course), not to mention a prefiguring of the ultimaste triumph over adversity that it represents. Over the page change to measure 80, Beethoven formalizes the modulation with a change of key signature.



t4 begins at measure 80, and this will return many times throughout the upcoming development. As a side note, I am thinking about relabelling things to better represent theme groups, but I'm not sure exactly how I want to do this yet, so it will have to await some revision steps later. In any case, t4 through t4b are my first real attempts at organizing theme groups, as they all seem to return in association with each other.

Note the continuing organic way that the themes or sub-themes grow out of each other. The dotted sixteenth/thirty-second figure of t4b even harkens back to the second cadential episode. The sonata process, like fugue, is of a natural fractal consistancy: The whole is built up of very small fractions of itself. Back when I was a doctoral candidate, I wrote some BASIC programs that generated fractal themes. A few of these were deeply compelling, and one or two even sounded like Bach had come up with them. As a result of those experiments, I am always looking for fractal traits in works by the greats, and they are present in droves.

t5 is one of my all time favorite Beethoven passages. Words fail me at this point, but it's like a rollercoaster ride, or something. Within the brackets I switched to a 12 point font and analyzed the quantum mechanics of the music. The first phrase ends with a nice half cadence, but the second engages in a bit more prefiguring, as the presence of A-flat and B-natural hint at upcoming episodes of C minor (Which uses the all-important E-flat as the third of the tonic triad, of course).



After the final duplet of measures that begins the final phrase of t5, we get t6, which is one of those "Only in Beethoven" things to me: He has a strong and emphatic cadential statement followed by one of extreme tenderness, and it works magnificently. I like how when you really look at the details, B's cadential statements are weird but logical. In measure 102, he keeps the root and third of the tonic triad constant, and the chromatic neighbor of the fifth creates a diminished minor seventh chord. In measure 103 this same device creates an augmented triad targeting the IV chord.

In the second statement of these cadential measures, B ingeniously lowers the third of the subdominant level triad to effect a modulation via common chord to the key of B major (Which has the E-flat, enharmonically appearing as D-sharp, again as the third of the tonic triad). This is "slicker 'n snot on a pumphandle", as some of us say here in Texas.

It is important to note that the B major to B-flat major relationship is that of the Neapolitan to it's tonic, so that first bII(6/3) back near the beginning of the exposition is reflected in this detail as well. This is simply marvelous organizational prowess that is on display here, and this is why I think that Beethoven, and not Bach or Mozart, was the greatest musical genius of all time. Nowhere else have I ever encountered so many unifying levels of organization that extend through so many layers of depth. This piece is, quite simply, impossibly masterfull.

Beethoven gets out of this corner of the musical universe via a direct side slip in measure 115. Mozart used this technique, but never in such an uncannily effective way as this. The nebulous and restless nature of this music combined with it's implicit spirituality simply keeps me in a state of persistant awe and astonishment. I don't know what you envision when you listen to this movement, but if I close my eyes I see the vastness of interstellar space and gargantuan nebulas and impossible planetary bodies with every kind and color of star everywhere. Seriously.

I need a nap.

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