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179 In rotation 1, there is much interesting inter-modular activity. Notice that mm. 52-53, 63-64, and 103-104 are all instances of musical activity that occurs between modules.
issues of modal identity, energy diffusion, and a deformed, declined MC. Notice that the music locks onto the dominant of f (vi) in m. 29. This is counter-generic, for we would normally expect a lock on the dominant of the dominant (B. Additionally, this wrong dominant is colored by the both the major and the minor modes (notice the tension between Aand Ain mm. 29-32). Finally, this TR actually discharges its energy too early as a drop in dynamics, a diminuendo, coincides with the lock on C in m.
Significant here is the presence of what I have termed “a chromatic irritant.” A chromatic irritant is an arresting chromatic event, such as an intrusive pitch-class or an obstructive chromatic harmony that elicits some response from the TR process. In the case of rotation 1 in Ballade 3, the irritant takes the form of an Amajor/minor seventh chord in m. 25 (a V7/IV). This chromatic agent is the stimulus that seems to fully awaken TR. It is a disruptive force that alters the established hypnotic pattern (mm. 9-24).
Importantly, this chord does not resolve as expected. Rather than resolving normatively, the Achord is treated sequentially (see mm. 27-28). As we shall see, such disruptive events are ubiquitous in Chopin’s TRs.
Rotation 2 (Example 5.7) continues the struggle to leave the tonic that was initiated at the onset of TR (mm. 9-36). Theme P2 begins at m. 116. Notably, this is in the tonic of Athe key of which up to this point we have never really leftAgain, this points to the massive struggle that the music must endure to leave the tonic.
The first real tonal shift occurs at m. 146, in which the refrain material (S1/S2) appears in the subdominant. This music dissolves into TR and achieves a partly normative medial caesura (HC: III of IV) in m. 183 (see Example 5.7).
180 According to Rosen 1995, 315, “until bar 145, more than half the length of the Ballade, there is no modulation at all, merely a series of shifts of mode.”
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Example 5.6: Dysfunctional TR in Rotation 1 of Ballade 3 (mm.
6-36) (continued) This is not followed by a contrasting theme, but by a gigantic, threefold sequence that brings together the opening two themes in a kind of synthetic struggle. The MC process partially fails in both rotations, but the piece finds an ultimate redemption in rotation 3 (Example 5.9). Example 5.9 details the prevailing of the home tonic and the true achievement of the Ballade’s foremost generic goal: ESC. This is a partial rotation, as the S1/S2 material fails to re-materialize. The partial MC failures center on a single tonal phenomenon: the inability of a C major dominant chord to lead to an F tonic. The proposed MC at m.36 (Example 5.10) focuses on this chord, as does the change of harmony at m. 115 (Example 5.11).
This emphasis on the C major harmony points toward F’s striving to differentiate itself as a viable tonal center; F never does this. This path toward the dominant (via the submediant) is abandoned after rotation
1. Here, the tonal motion goes through the subdominant.
Example 5.12: The Fate of F (Cadential Module, mm.
239-241) 5.2.2 The Overcoming- Blockage and Escape- from- Container Schemas The Hepokoski/Darcy model and the notion of TR dysfunction are only partly sufficient in the analysis of Ballade 3. For a more comprehensive view, we need to invoke other models as well.
Brower’s schemas for musical plot provide a counterbalance to the Sonata Theory model. Specifically, two of Brower’s schemas, the overcoming-blockage and the escape-from-container schemas can aid in 184 Rosen calls this shift from C to A a “magical change of harmony” (Rosen 1995, 308). Clearly, the common tone modulation here seemed particularly beautiful and important to him.
much of the musical activity in the Ballade 3.
Example 5.13: Brower’s Overcoming-Blockage Schema In rotation 1, the music encounters an impediment in the form of a blocked, or declined medial caesura in m.
36. As a result of this obstruction, the music is unable to secure an EEC in the second key (f minor). According to Brower’s schema, to overcome this blockage, the music must either repeat the action with increased force or seek a new way altogether.185 In rotation 2, the music strives to gain even more energy in order to produce a satisfactory medial caesura. Rather than retry to gain the sufficient energy from the tonic, Chopin imbues theme S2 (m 157, this time in the minor iv) with energy-gaining characteristics, such as new, active figuration, a massive, increase in dynamic power, and an increased thickness of texture. The second MC (a half-cadence in the key of E, which is the relative major of the minor iv) arrives in m. 182. Although it is not declined in this instance, what happens next is somewhat counter-generic. The MC is not followed by a stable theme, but by more TR material. Of course, more TR is indeed necessary here as the MC has certainly not prepared 185 The overcoming of the blockage, in this case, would be a fully realized and accepted MC as well as a strongly articulated ERC.
Example 5.14: Overcoming-Blockage Schema with Rotational Overlay in Ballade 3.
The second narrative structure in play in Ballade 3, escape-from-container, depends upon an understanding of a musical container as a metaphorical container for motion. These containers may expand, contract, or be breached altogether. 187 In Ballade 3, an initial musical container, a container for key space, is breached. Rosen, in his discussion of the music from rotation 1, emphasizes the fact that the music, at least up to rotation 2 (mm. 1-115) never leaves the tonic orbit. According to Rosen, “since Chopin tends to treat major and F minor as the same key, we might say that until bar 145, more than 186 Since the final rotation has a recapitulatory function, we would rightfully expect the MC to be a I:HC.
187 Brower discusses how this expansion and contraction is related to bodily sensation and can be conceptualized according to melodic space and key space.
musical narrative or plot in this case involves a striving to leave this musical orbit of A.
This striving is manifested in the music by the interaction and juxtaposition of these two keys. Unlike the other three Ballades, where many generic/structural processes are doomed to failure, Ballade 3 does indeed succeed in expanding its key space to one which includes both the subdominant and dominant.
Example 5.15: Brower’s Escape-from-Container Schema As It Relates to Ballade 3
We have seen that even though Ballade 3 is a difficult work, many insights about it are to be gained from my ecumenical method. The work displays many characteristics of sonata form, including the use of MCs and a highly rotational thematic configuration. Furthermore, it is plagued by TR dysfunction in its opening rotation (mm. 9-36). We can understand the piece as overcoming this dysfunction in the later part of the piece. Finally, it can be understood as implicitly unfolding two of Brower’s plot schemas: the overcoming-blockage schema and the escape-from-container schema.
Through the course of this study, I have proposed and utilized a methodology that unites three disparate analytical ideas: the Hepokoski/Darcy Sonata Theory model, the notion of TR dysfunction, and Brower’s schemas for musical plot. I have effectively shown that such an approach provides a new way into Chopin’s four Ballades. It is my claim that it can elucidate other pieces of music as well. In this concluding section, I propose that my ecumenical method will yield equally compelling results when applied to many piano pieces by Brahms. For now, I will briefly consider one of Brahms’ most notorious works: the Rhapsody in g minor, Op. 79 No. 2. Clearly, this work implicitly engages the sonata model. It is highly rotational, is concerned with the generic trajectories toward ERC and ESC, deals with the opposition of primary and secondary theme groups, and features TRs that are not unlike those we encountered in Chopin’s works.
6.2.1 Deformation and Rotational Form in Op. 79, No. 2 In the course of this study of Chopin’s sonatas and Ballades, we have seen—in terms of the Sonata Theory model— many kinds of rotational and structural deformations. Probably the most severe of these was Ballade 2, which begins in medias res. In this case, we encounter an initial thematic configuration that begins without a P-space. The Ballade, a true Romantic fragment, begins with the statement of S. In the case of the Rhapsody, we encounter a work that begins with unstable TR. Brahms’s composition is actually a sonata in search of a P-theme that does not emerge until after rotation 2 has failed in its quest for ERC.
For now, let us consider the Rhapsody’s rotational make-up. Example 6.1 is a synoptic view of the work’s form. As the example shows, this is a triple-rotation work that is clearly engaged with the
rotations 1-3 respectively. Furthermore, we see that each rotation is concerned with the achievement of Essential Rotational Closure (ERC). Rotations 1 and 3 actually achieve essential closure, while rotation 2, which is much more unstable, does not. Finally, notice that rotation 3 is actually a relatively normal sonata recapitulation with closed P-material, a normative TR, and a tonally closed S-theme.
Example 6.1 shows that the Hepokoski/Darcy model is applicable to Brahms’ Rhapsody.
We can also invoke the notions of TR dysfunction and Brower’s embodied plots. Even at first glance, it is clear that Brahms’s Rhapsody exhibits several problems with the process of energy-gain. All of these issues are present at the beginning of the work. Principally, the opening TR (mm. 1-20) struggles to produce a rhetorically normative S-theme. This struggle is compounded by a problem to with MC production.
Figure 6.2 concerns the opening TR in the Rhapsody.
Example 6.2 shows that TR1 actually produces four potential MCs.
Notice a definite pattern in their emergence: the earlier MCs, that is the first two, prepare more remote keys while the later MCs prepare a closely related key (the dominant). This kind of phenomenon, in which a TR produces several potential, failed MCs is a new TR paradigm that I have termed “MC multiplicity.” I find that MC multiplicity is a condition that is common in the instrumental works of Brahms and probably in the sonata-form movements of many other 19th-century composers.
These multiple MCs are precluded by issues of TR dysfunction. First, notice that the first two MCs in this TR might be considered premature, that is they occur too early. Also notice that while the first two three MCs are certainly failed, that is they do not produce an appropriate S-theme, they become progressively more successful. The first MC is followed not by an even nominally acceptable S. It is actually followed by more sequencing. The second MC is followed by a rhetorically inappropriate S in the wrong key. The third MC is followed by a rhetorically appropriate, tonally appropriate S that fails to cadence. It is only the fourth MC that produces a rhetorically appropriate, tonally correct, closed S. Such cases of MC multiplicity, in which the TR process gradually becomes more successful, are termed “proficient,” while these that fail to produce a normative MC are termed “deficient.” Second, this TR is plagued by a common kind of TR problem: the chromatic irritant. The clearest example of a chromatic irritant in TR1 it the multiple G#’s that continually frustrate the melody
the literature that involve entire chords.
Finally, TR1 can be understood as being in dialogue with Brower’s overcoming-blockage plot schema. We can easily map the experience of blockage encounter onto our perception of the music here.
Clearly, the first three TR1 modules encounter various kinds of blockages that I have already discussed.
In this case, dysfunctional elements in the TR actually change its course. We have seen this in several of Chopin’s works as well.
At the end of a long study such as this one, it will be necessary to make some concluding remarks and speculate about the potential for future scholarship. This survey of Chopin’s Ballades has yielded several important conclusions. First, it has illuminated something about the nature of these four masterpieces. We must understand the genre of the Ballade as something new: as a genre unto itself.
This genre is a synthetic one that blends gestures from multiple kinds of pieces and modes of composition. With the Hepokoski/Darcy model, we can now see just how this is so. The Ballades certainly borrow many gestures and much rhetoric from the conventional sonata. Even so, it would be a mistake to regard them as merely deformed sonatas. What makes these works, and indeed this genre, unique is its special negotiation of the norms of instrumental composition. They combine the gestures of sonata form with gestures from the lyric genres, especially that of poetry. Only an ecumenical hermeneutic would be appropriate to process such multifarious works.
It is clear then, that the genre of the Ballade involves its own unique narrative trajectories and generic obligations. Chopin was not the only composer who wrote instrumental Ballades. Later composers, such as Liszt, Grieg, Brahms, Debussy, and Faure wrote works of this kind as well. It would be fascinating to note if this larger body of works feature similar kinds of rhetoric and formal negotiations.