Music Analysis Books – a guide
Welcome to the subpage for music analysis books, where you can find reviews and descriptions of the most relevant, sought-after books within the field of music analysis. Now, there are many ways to analyse music, some of which are concerned with events and details, and some of which are more about dividing pieces of music into certain structures. All ways allow you to get closer to the music and get to know it better, which makes the listening experience more rewarding and fun.
This category is divided into subcategories:
Schenkerian Analysis | Sonata Form | Semiotic Analysis | Pitch-Class Analysis
Music analysis books: Schenkerian Analysis
Heinrich Schenker designed a technique to be a teaching aid to his performance students. However, it has developed into a much-used analysis technique to bring out the essence of counterpoint, form and harmony in tonal music.
The key thing to understand about Schenkerian analysis is that it deals with the prolongation of a very simple fundamental musical structure known as the ursatz. The underlying idea is that any piece of tonal music can be stripped to a fundamental structure no more complex than I-V-I – the tonic-dominant-tonic progression. In Schenkerian analysis, this is usually done in three levels, known as foreground, middleground and background.
Whether this is really an analysis technique or some kind of heuristic tool is debatable. The sonata form principle is the organisation of harmonic progressions into larger structures. The concept should not be mixed up with the sonatas written by composers such as Beethoven and Mozart. In fact, these composers were both dead when the concept of sonata form was invented by A. B. Marx.
Sonata form is associated with the dividing of a piece of music into exposition, development and recapitulation. Furthermore, it deals with structures within these sections, such as first and second subjects and transitions.
Paradigmatic analysis can be seen as a method derived from the study of semiotics in music. It explores the different kinds of music, where form appears to be absent. That is, when the music appears to have no linear direction or real “goal”. The technique is particularly useful when analysing music by Igor Stravinsky. Paradigmatic analysis is essentially about illustrating the very small musical fragments, which build up a piece of music. These are often called cell structures, and together, they form cell sequences. Paradigmatic/semiotic analysis is not very tricky, but indeed a very time consuming way of analysing music.
There is also music where any tonal, conventional logic will appear completely absent and irrelevant. However, such music can be analysed too. Allen Forte designed a system of music analysis known as pitch-class analysis, where notes and intervals are turned into numbers, and numbers are organised into sequences. The numbers – from 0 to 11 – correspond to the semitones within an octave. Using numbers allows for a more flexible way of approaching atonal music such as that of Arnold Schoenberg.
Of course there are also some music analysis books within this very specific and quite new field. Not so many, though.