In some recent posts, other members have a expressed an interest in learning how to analyze music, fill in gaps in their theoretical knowledge, hone their analysis skills, or simply practice identifying chords and work on basic theory.
I'm going to take it upon myself to initiate this thread and if interest is sufficient, I'd be happy to continue in the same manner with additional analyses. I do this because I'm a theory nerd
Anyone is free to participate, but I want to lay out a few disclaimers before we begin:
1. This is going to be aimed at people who are beginners at theory, but not necessarily beginners at Classical Guitar. If you are "more advanced" with regards to theory, please feel free to participate but please make an effort not to derail, sidetrack, or otherwise distract from the conversation - nothing confuses learners more than providing too much information too early on, in a pedagogically incoherent fashion.
2. With that in mind, I want to add that I'm going to start of SIMPLE! There may be things I say that could be fleshed out more, or have caveats or alternate interpretations. Bear with me - we'll get to those. But for beginners, it's important to restrict information to the basic points and again, maintain a pedagogically effective progression.
3. I'm going to use the type of analysis I studied as an undergraduate and graduate student, which, to my knowledge is fairly consistent in universities at least in the States. I have found in other English-speaking forums that sometimes terminology (say between American English and British English) differs as well as analysis techniques. I'm going to explain as I go so everyone can learn together.
4. Mods, if there is a problem with this, please, by all means step in before I get too far! I'd be happy to do it in a more organized fashion but for now I'm just going to treat this as a thread I've started and maintained.
Music is an art form. It changes, it evolves, it is influenced, and influences. As a result, over the course of musical history, musical styles are not necessarily consistent. The way a piece by Palestrina was written differs greatly from the way a piece by Stockhausen was written. As a result, it can be difficult to find elements that one can identify and discuss that are common.
However, one period of history saw music get to a point where it was fairly consistent stylistically for roughly 200 years. We call this era the Common Practice Period
. The Common Practice Period (CPP hereafter) encompasses the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic Periods, roughly 1650-1850. For that 200 years, composers essentially used the same tools and methods and wrote music in a fairly consistent and predictable style.
For this reason, the CPP has become the most widely studied time period since the works written during this "common practice" time frame make it so much easier to come up with concepts and terminology that describe the music. Because of this, it is also the era most frequently taught in theory courses, especially at the university level. Coupled with the fact that music from this time period is often the most frequently performed and recorded, it only reinforces the need for a "common language" to discuss this stylistic period often regarded as a high point of human expression (not the only one in my opinion though!).
Why Do We Analyze Music?
Music Theory really has 3 primary applications:
1. The development of terminology and concepts to describe what's happening in the music to allow for a comparative analysis.
2. The analysis of music, which is used to see how pieces adhere to or diverge from the element of a style.
3. To better understand the style, and the thought process of composers, so we can more accurately perform pieces from this era. This also allows us to emulate their style should we choose to write music similarly, and it can inspire us to create new styles based on the cumulative practices, knowledge, and experiences of the past.
So really, we analyze music first and foremost simply to describe it. Once we had analyzed enough pieces, we realized that pieces of the CPP nearly all were very consistent in the way they were composed, on many different levels. This helps us define a "style". Analysis of any piece will tell us if that piece adheres to the elements of the style, or diverges from them. If the latter, we look and see if there are reasons, if this is the development of a new style, how much it is similar or differs, and so on. But it also allows us to discover things about music: trends, micro-trends, clichés, individual composers' peculiarities, idiomatic elements for particular types of pieces or pieces written for specific instruments, and so on.
Thus, analysis is more than "naming chords". It is intended to go way beyond that. However, it's not also really designed to tell us "why a composer chose what they did" - a question that often can't be answered with first hand knowledge. Instead, it's designed to tell us what they did, and to be able to compare it to the work of other composers.
In the next post, I'm going to offer up a piece and guide everyone through the analysis. I'm going to break this up into more digestible, smaller posts initially.