I was first introduced to the ideas of Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935) as a graduate music student. His technique of musical analysis completely changed my way of looking at music. Although his ideas and graphic analyses can be rather complex and difficult to comprehend without a great deal of preliminary study, one important concept stands out. This concept is his idea of reduction analysis in which a composition from the tonal era can always be reduced down through a series of structural levels to its bare essentials, ultimately boiling down to a I-V-I progression which supports a descending soprano line which begins on a tonic triad member (third, fifth or octave) and ends on the tonic itself.

I decided to utilize this reduction technique in my analysis of Matteo Carcassi’s Study 9 from his very well known Op. 60 set of studies for guitar. This is by no means a full blown Schenkerian analysis. It is just a basic reduction of a composition to its essential contrapuntal underpinnings; what Schenker calls a structural level. In other words I have stripped away the nonessential components and laid out the skeletal structure of the piece. Let’s take a look at a few examples to clarify this.

In measure one the chromatic lower neighbor notes (B# and D#) as well as the upper neighbors (F on beat two and B on beat four) are eliminated as they are considered nonessential structurally, leaving only the tones of the tonic triad. Since much of the piece is based on this neighbor note idea I have reduced all measures containing this figure in a similar way.

Scale passages such as ones occurring in measures two, four, seven and eight for example are also reduced to the essential structural tones since scales are considered as passing tones between structural tones.

The end result is a nice little two-part (mainly, I did include a third part sometimes to clarify voice-leading and the harmony) counterpoint that is quite satisfying in itself. It is certainly no stretch to hear the piece in this way. It also gives us great insight into compositional technique, in which a simple contrapuntal structure is elaborated upon to produce a complete composition.

Harmonically the piece is straightforward. I would like to point out a few interesting features; first of all the key relationships. Carcassi moves us from E major (dominant key area) to C major/A minor (parallel minor) in measure seventeen directly through the use of a tone that is shared by both keys, E in this case. This is usually referred to as a common-tone modulation in which a move into a more distant key is smoothly accomplished by maintaining one common tone between the two keys, usually sustained in one of the outer voices. In this case the E in the upper voice (root of the E major triad) becomes the third of the new tonic C major triad.

The next most interesting feature is the striking Italian augmented sixth chord that we hear in measure twenty-three which precedes the dominant (E major) as it most often does, preparing the restatement of the A section (mm. 1-8). It is also interesting to point out that this very prominent feature occurs almost exactly two-thirds of the way into the piece (0.657). Of course this is a “Golden Section” ratio which seems to be very prominent in the arts as well as in nature.

One other point concerning the harmony on the fourth beat of measure twenty-five; at first I thought this must be a secondary leading-tone diminished seventh (D#dim7) resolving to E major (V) with its third (F#) missing. When I played through it I decided that the missing tone was actually F natural since this tone is very prominent within the measure. This F natural would now create a German augmented sixth chord resolving to E major (V). Also considering the fact that we have just heard this harmony two measures earlier leads me to believe that this is the correct analysis even though the critical F natural is missing.

The score including the reduction analysis is below. I hope you find this method as much of a revelation as I did when first introduced to the ideas of one of my heroes of musical analysis, Heinrich Schenker.




March 28, 2012 @03:34 pm
Tony Hyman
John I would interpret that chord in 26 last quaver as a B9 and the E purely as a purcusive pedal note as Bach dose in BWV 999 bars 17 to 32 .This section from Cacassi just reminds me of that section in Bach.Tony Hyman
March 28, 2012 @03:20 pm
Tony Hyman
Boy once again this is great stuff John.This Mr Carcassi is a sly little fox.He has a way of using accidentals when he slips a key within another Key maintaining the original key signature.For example bars 22 to bars 28 which I see as a complete modulation in the Key of E major as you might also do John.With this in mind the chord in bar 26 on the 4th beat lends itself very strongly to a B9 which is an extention of the Domonant 7th to my understanding although the 5th and root are omitted.I suppose it would not do any harm to play the F# if one is not to puristic inclined ,that is.The intersestin thing for me here John is the use of the pedal E bass through that secdtion.It reminds me of Bars 17 to 32 in Bach's BWV 999 where the E thunders along almost inderpendantly if the harmonic voicing in fact disonant in bar 25 where we have the E bass against the Eb of the F7 arpeggio.This might well seem irrelavant to Carcassi but it is my firm believe that Bach and other composers who might well have followed him Mozart cirtainly did from what I have read,used the bass as a percussive function like a drone or drum which has constant pitch keeping the beat as it were .Therefore I one shoud not read the E in Carcassi as part of the B9 chord but merely as purcussive role as in the Bach example supra. Thanking you for this opportunity once again Tony Hyman

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