sonata theory


  • Instead of beginning the second rotation with the P-theme in the tonic, setting off a normal recapitulation, Type 2 sonatas replace the beginning of the rotation with material
    that seems like a traditional development (although, like most developments, this material is often based on P).

  • According to Sonata Theory, a piece cannot have a secondary theme without an MC to prepare it (except in highly deformational circumstances): the medial caesura is a necessary
    generic marker of the second theme.

  • One function of this space is to define the main (or tonic) key of the piece, usually confirming it with a cadence at the end of the theme.

  • (The selection of sonata type is independent of the piece’s internal rotational layout: a sonata of any type might have either a Continuous or a Two-Part exposition, for example.)

  • For example, it is normative for the secondary theme of a minor-mode sonata to be in either the key of III or v. If a composer chooses to break this norm in a given piece,
    that is a deviation that requires analytical and interpretive explanation.

  • Thus it often happens that the restoration of the tonic key in Rotation 2 is accomplished by the arrival of S. This has led other analysts to apply the term “reversed recapitulation”
    to this sonata type.

  • Generically, however, the sonata is required to depart from this home key for the later action spaces, so the tonic proposed by P is only provisional; one of the main generic
    goals of the following sonata form is to eventually affirm this key with a more definitive cadence.

  • The Type 3 Sonata is the traditional textbook design, including full exposition, development, and recapitulation, each of which has its own independent rotational design (although
    developments are often only half-rotational).

  • The primary theme (P) zone or space presents the initial musical material of the sonata, excluding an optional introduction which is not considered part of the sonata form

  • At any point in a sonata movement, such as at the beginning of the secondary theme or the end of the development, a composer had various choices for how to proceed.

  • “[4] A work in sonata form is expected to accomplish certain goals; how it goes about this task is to be understood in relation to a set of background stylistic tendencies.

  • By the definition of the “essential closure” cadences, C must involve musical material that differs from what was heard in S. In fact, C space often includes distinctly new
    thematic material.

  • The entire layout of a Two-Part Exposition is thus often represented as: (Arrows are frequently used in Sonata Theory notation to represent authentic cadences—in this case
    the EEC.)

  • (One common manner in which this is accomplished is the articulation of an apparent second medial caesura, producing what Sonata Theory terms a Trimodular Block.)

  • The tonal layout of sonata form has frequently been described by theorists, and involves a motion from the tonic to a secondary key in the exposition, answered by a return
    and solidification of the tonic later in the piece (usually in the recapitulation).

  • For example, developments most frequently begin by recalling the exposition’s primary theme in a new key, but a development might also begin episodically by introducing new
    material, which Hepokoski and Darcy posit “may be a second-level default option.

  • As P falls at the beginning of the rotational layout and usually consists of distinctive musical material, every subsequent occurrence of that material suggests the beginning
    of a new rotation.

  • Thus, the arrival of S in the middle of a Type 2 second rotation functions as a “tonal resolution” but not as the beginning of a recapitulation, because it does not initiate
    a new rotation.

  • “[7] A central part of the analytic and interpretive work of Sonata Theory lies in recognizing these deformations and default choices and understanding how they affect the
    progress of a piece as a whole.

  • The entire sonata form, therefore, is understood as a dynamic trajectory toward the ESC, the basic plan of which is foreshadowed by the exposition’s approach to the EEC.

  • Usually, the EEC is provided by the first perfect authentic cadence articulated after S-space has begun, although this can be undermined in various ways (such as repeating
    previously heard material from S, implying that the previous cadence was somehow insufficient and S-space needs to “try again”).

  • Later sections of the piece (such as the development, recapitulation, and coda) usually revisit these ideas in the same order—though not necessarily touching on every one—as
    if rotating through a pre-set sequence, like hours on a clock or channels on a television dial.

  • “[8] These action spaces largely correlate with the “themes” or “groups” of the sonata, though each space is differentiated primarily by the unique generic goal that the music
    pursues within that particular space.

  • Sonata Theory is an approach to the description of sonata form in terms of individual works’ treatment of generic expectations.

  • If this option is chosen, a Two-Part Exposition is produced; if not, TR leads directly to the essential expositional closure (described below), producing a Continuous Exposition.

  • The main objective of the S action space, however, is to confirm the new key with a perfect authentic cadence.

  • Although great variation exists between individual Type 5 movements, the most characteristic features of the Type 5 are an extra, initial, non-modulatory rotation for the
    orchestra alone and an alternation between blocks of music for the soloist and for the orchestra.

  • The crux is the part of the recapitulation where the S zone secures itself in the home key and significant changes compared to the exposition no longer occur.

  • The term deformation is not meant to suggest an aesthetic judgment (along the lines of “malformed”) but rather is intended as a technical term indicating a significant deviation
    from ordinary practice.

  • This type, frequently employed in slow movements, therefore lacks a traditional development section.


Works Cited

[‘1. Hepokoski & Darcy 2006, p. 10.
2. ^ Hepokoski & Darcy 2006.
3. ^ “Past Publication Awards”. Society for Music Theory. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
4. ^ Hepokoski & Darcy 2006, p. 15.
5. ^ Hepokoski & Darcy 2006, pp. 10–11.
6. ^ Hepokoski
& Darcy 2006, pp. 207–212.
7. ^ Hepokoski & Darcy 2006, p. 617.
8. ^ Jump up to:a b Hepokoski & Darcy 2006, p. 23.
9. ^ Hepokoski & Darcy 2006, p. 120.
2. Hepokoski, James; Darcy, Warren (2006). Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and
Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195146400.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-514640-0.
3. Hepokoski, James; Darcy, Warren (2006). Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations
in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195146400.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-514640-0.
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