Monday, August 22, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth: Allegro, IV

Please excuse the lengthy interlude, but I have suffered a perplexing string of musical equipment failures over the past four months, and I finally found the gremlin. Unfortunately, the items are manufactured by a company who's products I have used more or less exclusively since the mid 80's, and I must admit that I am flabbergasted, since none of their products have ever failed on me in over twenty years, and two brand new units went bad within four months. In fact, I had prepared a "rant" to post, but thought better of it. Instead, I composed a very "complimentary, BUT" missive to them, and have decided to wait to vent my spleen pending their response.

Now that we have that taken care of, let us return to maestro Beetoven's symphony.



At measure 116, B introduces t6c, which could have come out of a big band jazz chart. The reason I say that is because this four bar passage uses a sequential progression of intimated parallel first inversion triads, each of which is targeted by a pair of upper and lower neighboring chromatic approach tones. I swear, if you add a swing feel to this, it will crack you up, because it sounds like "legit" big band jazz. Well, I thought it was interesting and funny, anyway.

The V chord that starts measure 116 is basically turned around upon and fleshed out at the beginning of measure 120, where I have marked t6d. I labored quite a while to come up with the analysis symbols for this passage, and I'm quite pleased with the formula I arrived at. The V(m9) chord is basically treated as a suspended sonority, so I have indicated what will happen within the perentheses, and put the resolution to the octave at the point where the resolution happens, again, within perentheses.

Though the duplets of measures are obviously octave displacements of the same suspension, the inversion of the chords changes, which I have also indicated. The V resolves dutifully to I, which performs an echo of the suspension figure again, only on the tonic level. To add an element of resistance to the tension involved here, B repeats this passage almost exactly in measures 124 through 127.


At 128 Beethoven speeds up the action by first contracting the previous suspension/resolution figure, and then varying it in the buildup to t7. This interlocking sequential 32nd note figure was seeded with that "strip of tape" I mentioned back in measures 34 and 35. It is deceptively simple on the surface, but the way Beethoven harmonizes it is, of course, quite the model of supreme mastery.

The first measure gives us your basic "Bb" (That's an inside joke and pun, just for the illuminati) ii to V progression, which dutifully resolves to I at measure 133. Then, Beethoven broadens out the harmonic rhythm to one chord per measure and progresses through ii (again) to the V/IV, which as I've mentioned before, is another in a series of prefigurings of where B plans to go in the development section "proper" later.



t7 is a six bar phrase, so page 8 of my "transcription of the transcription" begins with the final duplet of measures of that phrase. Here, we go through IV, which is completely tonicised with the presense of the A-flats, to V. Then, at t7b B makes one of those abrupt contrasts for which he so notable.

As an aside here, I must mention that I have been doing some investigative reading about Beethoven, in order to try to gain more understanding of him. From contemporary accounts, B was described in his youthful performing years as one who executed never before heard contrasts of tempo and dynamics in his interpretations of Mozart, among others (And he improvised his own outrageously provocative cadenzas). This evidently simultaneously astonished, confused, and outraged listeners. His development of legatto was also described as unpresidented, and he was evidently condescendingly hyper-critical of the harpsichord-derived technique of some of the hacks who were his contemporaries, which he described as "finger dancing". The reason I bring this up is to point out that this ethos of dramatic contrast was developed in Beethoven from a very early point in his musical quest. I personally do not subscribe to the "Beethoven as revolutionary" meme: I see him as a very logical evolution of the classical style, with the element of grace caried to it's logical fruition, and that is of stylistically nuanced expressiveness. The extremes of this expressiveness are not revolutionary in and of themselves, but are simply the self-actualization of B's personality. That this personal style was aped by those with lesser gifts and that it subsequently devolved into Romanticism is not B's fault (And, to be fair, there was much music of merit composed during the Romantic era which I love). But, it should be evident by this point, with the few crumbs I have uncovered, that B was of the same tradition and mindset which produced Perotin, Palestrina, Bach, Haydn, and Mozart. He was a first order musical craftsman and architectural master who had a profound command of his resources and was at one with the entirety of musical history.

Anyway, at measure 138 and t7b, B releases some tension, but with the ever-present dotted 16th/32nd note rhythmic figure providing interjections (admonitions?). This leads to t7c, which builds up to the final closing theme of the exposition at t8. In perenthetical brackets during t7b I analyzed the quantum mechanics of a phrase that caught my atention. B here sequences a set pf parallel first inversion triads over a tonic pedal point, and this is not something I would have thought of doing (Still wouldn't do this, truth be told). The effect is quite charming nonetheless, which is why I dug into it. The sequential repeats of the figure that drives the phrase don't have this feature, but there is a contracted variation of it in measure 143.

t8 is nothing more than an arpeggiated tonic triad using the omnipresent dotted 16th/32nd note figure we have encountered throughout the exposition in numerous guizes.



This closing theme continues at measure 154 and disolves into some muted 32nd note "slams" that lead back to the beginning of the exposition. However, since the exposition has a varied repeat within itself, the exposition does not have repeat indicators, as a more traditionally "classical" exposition would.

It is very interesting to note how the small accent B presents on the second quarter note of measure 160 is used to effect modulations throughtout the upcoming variation on t1. This accent returns in measure 166 expanded to the open fifth, but at measure 170, the accent sets up a modulation by becoming the V/IV.

As an adendum, I want to let you know I'm having an issue with filtering information here. There is no way I can describe everything I'm noticing about this music without each post becoming a dissertation. I am simply trying to present the analysis that I have come up with along with the comments that I think are most pertinent. Oh, and I appologize for my atrocious spelling. I know I couldn't correctly spell my way out of a wet paper sack if my life depended on it, and that is an unfortunate artifact of my indifference as a student until I went to music school after two dismal years at a "real" university. I refuse to use spell check, relying instead on Samuel Clemens' observation to an editor that you should, "Never trust a man who has but one way to spell a word."

Time to hit the sack.

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