Music Theory Online


The Online Journal of the Society for Music Theory

Volume 4.1

Per F. Broman*

Report from the "Skagerack Network" Analysis Workshop at Lyseby Conference Center in Oslo, Norway, November 20-23, 1997.

KEYWORDS: Analysis, Schenker, popular music, narrative.

ABSTRACT: University of Oslo, Department of Musicology hosted a three-day workshop on musical analysis with faculty and doctoral students participating from the Universities of Aarhus, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Gothenburg, Sweden; and Turku, Finland. Marion Guck, University of Michigan, was the invited guest speaker. Most of the papers emphasized methodological issues and the need for immanent analysis to be supported by complementary approaches.

[1] "Skageraknettverket" ["The Skagerack Network"] is a collaboration among four institutions in the Nordic countries: The Center for Cultural Research at Aarhus University, Denmark; The Institute for Music and Theater at the University of Oslo, Norway; the Department of Musicology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden; and the Department of Musicology at the Turku Academy, Finland. Seminars for the faculty and graduate students are arranged once a year in the different participating cities.

[2] November 20-23 "The Skagerack Network" met at the Lysebu Conference Center in Oslo. Papers and presentations were given by four faculty members (Bengt Edlund, Turku Academy; Alf Bj�rnberg, University of Gothenburg; Erling Guldbrandsen, Oslo University; Stan Hawkins, Oslo University), by seven graduate students (Erlend Hovland, Oslo University; Odd Sk�rberg, Oslo University; Gjermund Kolltveit, Oslo University; Per F. Broman, University of Gothenburg; J�rgen Langdalen, Oslo University; Karin Petersen, University of Aarhus; Anne Danielsen, Oslo University), and by the invited guest speaker Marion Guck, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The presentations were given in Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, except for the session on November 22 which was in English. Each presentation was followed by a half-hour discussion session. Here I will briefly discuss the papers I think would be of most interest to MTO's readers.{1}

[3] The conference began with Bengt Edlund's "Methodological Variations on a Given Theme" [in Swedish], in which Edlund presented seven different approaches to analysis. He started by talking about the Swedish linguist Bj�rn Lindblom and acoustician Johan Sundberg's generative method of analysis. In their article "Towards a Generative Theory of Melody,"{2} they selected tunes by Alice Tegn�r (1864-1943), the Swedish composer of children's songs, and generated rules for the behavior of these songs with regard to meter, rhythm, harmony, melody, and syntactical and stylistical invariances. The test of this method is to generate melodies according to the rules and then to verify the outcome by comparing these generated melodies with the originals. This method works well for Tegn�r since her melodies are easy to formalize.

[4] Edlund himself had created a melody according to these rules and it turned out to bear some resemblance to Mozart's theme from the first movement of the A-major Sonata K.V. 331, which became the focus of the rest of his presentation. He continued by applying Grosvenor Cooper and Leonard Meyer's rhythmic theory to the Mozart theme and showed how the different rhythmic layers could influence the interpretation of the piece. This was then followed by a brief discussion of Meyer's implication theory.

[5] Edlund's discussion of Schenkerian analysis generated the most interest. According to Edlund, Mozart's K.V. 331/I is a problematic movement since the first half works very well as a three-line and the second as a five-line. To illustrate this problem Edlund presented three different graphs, those of Schenker, Forte-Gilbert, and Lester. Edlund found that to cast the piece as either a five-line (Schenker and Forte-Gilbert) or three-line (Lester), the structure of the piece has to be violated. His own solution was to completely ignore traditional Schenkarian concepts and to represent the work as comprising two separate structural descents, making the first part a three-line and the second a five-line.

[6] In my previous correspondent's report, MTO 3.4 (July 1997), I was very critical of Edlund's reading of Schenker. I now understand more why he finds the method frustrating. From his performance and perception-oriented perspective, the theory should mirror the melodic foreground. When he did not find the important leap of a third in the two first measures in any of the graphs he examined, Edlund concluded that the method must be flawed. However, this erroneous assumption reflects an insufficient knowledge of Schenkerian techniques and of the secondary Schenkerian literature. There are Schenkerian ways to represent the piece so that the important foreground features appear. One example is David Neumeyer's sketch of K.V. 331 which also features the innovative three-part Urlinie thereby addressing the "drei oder f�nf Problem" in this piece in a way that may satisfy Edlund.{3}

[7] Contrary to Edlund's apparent beliefs, Schenkerian techniques do not have to be static and orthodox monoliths. Charles J. Smith, for example, has successfully elaborated on Schenker's conception of form, and in the process has reworked several of Schenker's analyses and questioned some precepts of his theory.{4}

[8] I can't understand why Edlund seems set on assuming the role of The Crusader against Schenkerian analysis on a continent where few pay any attention to the method. He should participate in the North American and British discourses: both Edlund and the Schenkerian community would benefit from this as he does indeed possess a substantial and sound knowledge of tonal theory which would make his comments on the method valuable.

[9] Edlund continued his presentation by briefly showing examples of Lerdahl and Jackendoff's Generative Analysis. Edlund found this approach to be more useful than the Schenkerian one for K.V. 331. He also spoke appreciatively of Nattiez's paradigmatic analysis, which he applied to this piece.

[10] Finally, Edlund tried a narrative strategy in which the ascending and descending structural scales were seen as antagonists in a plot reading and also in a gender-oriented reading. Edlund views these "erective" ascending scales as masculine and the descending as feminine, and thus, as a joke, one must hope, finds a Schenkerian fundamental structure to be feminine. The conclusion of his lecture was somehow weak. The point was to prove that different methods of analyses were useful for different aspects of the analysis. We knew that already.

[11] The Nordic countries have a strong tradition of studies in popular music and ethnomusicology, and several of the papers that were given emphasized these areas. Alf Bj�rnberg's "Analysis of Popular Music or Popular Analysis of Music" [in Swedish] was an eye-opening experience in terms of its emphasis on modes of analysis other than those invoked in traditional scholarship.

[12] Bj�rnberg discussed the issue of how to analyze the non-analytical mode of listening (the second half of the title of his paper). How can we understand the ways in which listeners who are not trained in music theory perceive music? He referred briefly to Abraham Moles, Information Theory and Esthetic Perception,{5} which draws on semantic versus aesthetic complexity and on the "parameters of analysis" developed by the Danish Radio programming department. These seven parameters are guidelines to be considered by producers of any music-mix program in order to achieve a desired effect:

  1. Power (complexity and sound)
  2. The relation between rhythm and melody
  3. Performance personality and individuality
  4. The relation between text and instrument
  5. Mood (nine semantic fields and accessibility)
  6. Tempo
  7. Genre (nineteen different genres, two within Western art music)
[13] It turned out that categories one and two have the largest impact, and three and four a lesser impact, while category six is important to the flow of the program. Although a non-conclusive method, the basic concept could surely be developed more rigorously.

[14] Odd Sk�rberg's well-written paper "'There's No Better Music': On Analyzing Value Judgments in our Recent Music History" [in Norwegian] discussed how to interpret and analyze value judgments. His informant was one of the pioneers of New Orleans jazz in Norway, who expressed his views on rock 'n' roll. Sk�rberg considers value judgments to be a strategical discourse demanding a particular attention from the researcher. In this case, Sk�rberg's informant made very unfavorable comments about rock. On the question what musical value he considered the rock bands to have he replied "I don't think they had any [value]; NOTHING," that is, an answer that by some could be dismissed as worthless rhetoric and as a self justification of one's own stylistic preferences. Instead Sk�rberg interprets this interview material and reads that behind the offensive comments there is a painful experience--that the informant's homogenous musical world was split up by the introduction of rock 'n' roll. Rock and traditional jazz have become complementary and cannot be unified.

[15] Sk�rberg finds that complex analyses of value judgments must take into account levels above the single individual. He concluded by stating that value judgments can perform an important function in forming musical histories in all musical contexts.

[16] In his lecture "Necessary, But Not Enough: On the Role of Analysis for Understanding Boulez and Musical Modernism" [in Norwegian] Erling E. Guldbrandsen showed examples from his very ambitious Ph.D. dissertation in which he attempts to demonstrate Boulez's compositional process through an examination of Boulez's sketches for Pli selon pli, housed at the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel.{6} Guldbrandsen claimed that the notion that serialism is a means for obtaining "structural unity, coherence, and rational compositional control" is a misunderstanding. Instead he shows convincingly that for Boulez serialism is "a strategy for producing new material, material which again constitutes new and unforeseen compositional and aesthetic possibilities." Guldbrandsen's point in this paper was that although his sketch studies gave a great deal of information, the interpretation of the actual music and the poetry continued to play an important role in his understanding of the piece.

[17] Guldbrandsen's presentation gives a good indication of the Scandinavian definition of analysis. For Guldbrandsen, and most others in Scandinavia, the analytical part of the study was to reconstruct the compositional process: to label the rows and to gain a closer understanding of the artistic considerations. There are no analytical attempts to structure the work using pitch-class set techniques or transformational networks.

[18] The Saturday session was given entirely in English. Marion Guck's "The Idea of Musical Narrative and the Problem of Musical Continuity: The Case of the Adagio of Haydn's Sonata No. 46" gave a beautiful and very personal phenomenological account of methodological problems related to narrative strategies. The paper discussed several aspects of narrativity, including the problems of borrowing theories from other disciplines ("At its worst it seems like dressing up old concepts in new terms; at its best it seems a fruitful meeting of different intellectual cultures that can bring a fresh perspective to the familiar") and of various narrative strategies--Cone's persona, motivic analysis as "an ordered sequence of plot functions," Lawrence Kramer's application of the terms narrative, narrativity, and narratography--and also problematized the notion of narrative ("Is the story in the musical work [...] or in the analyst?"; "Recognizing that music has no narrator, while not definitive, did help me recognize the directness and intensity of involvement I feel with music as compared with other works of art; it suggested some ways to account for the difference.").

[19] After discussing two narrtological analyses by Fred Maus,{7} Guck gave two personal readings of the Adagio movement of Mozart's A-Major Piano Concerto, K.V. 488. The first interpretation described the musical feelings in analytical terms: "[...] the sounding of the D chord [in m. 8] creates a disconcerting impression of giving way, but to something surprisingly welcome. It is a little bit like the dissolution-into-hope of an egg cracking to reveal the hatchling within, except that one takes pleasure in the manner of the dissolution. How is such a contradictory impression achieved? First of all, the bass's ... D is not the only cause. There is also a question in the upper voice about whether A# or A resolves B." The second one was like poetry--a pianist's poetic experience of performing the piece: "For the pianist there is a feel of small stretches, often across sixths, that contrast with closer work. At the opening, after the small movement of the neighbor, attention moves back and forth between the thumb and the little finger. [...] ...The right hand's line ... stretches ... in m. 7, overreaching the G# that is its goal to lean from an appoggiatura A [...]. As the phrase begins to repeat, ... the orchestra's music becomes less purely broad-stroked and warm. When the piano returns, we are pleased." It is really a wonderful description of the introduction of the movement.

[20] Guck's second piece was Haydn's Piano Sonata No. 46, her description of which focused on the formal aspects as revealed through counterpoint. Guck then discussed the story she had just been telling: "How does a wholesale repetition [...] fit into story telling, or a theory of narrative functions, or even a narratological trajectory?" She found Maus's adaptation of G�rard Genette's three accounts of the difference between story and discourse--"Discourse may order events differently from their order in the story"; "Story and discourse may differ with regard to the frequency of an event"; and "The duration of the discourse, or [...] the implied time of reading, may differ from the time taken by the event in the story"--to be a useful distinction in a musical context.{8}

[21] I found Professor Guck's analyses to be most convincing. They indeed make musical sense and are also very important from the pedagogical point of view: It is necessary to show that we theorists and musicologists really care for the music--that we have a personal relation to music--in the classroom as well as at professional conferences and in any public discourse.

[22] My own contribution, "Touching up the Paint or a Complete Vinyl Residing? Meta-Analytical Strategies in Stephen Ingham's Second Sonata for Piano and Tape," [in English] discussed British composer Stephen Ingham's extraordinary Sonata op. 56 (1991) and its blunt use of pre-fabricated synthesizer sounds and easily recognizable clich�s from jazz and art music alike. On first hearing it could easily be characterized as kitsch. Drawing from writings by Peter B�rger, Theodor Adorno, Umberto Eco, Susan McClary, Andreas Huyssen, and others, I explored the tensions between modernistic, avant-garde, and postmodern modes of reception with regard to objects trouv�es and kitsch displaying a new location for the musical avant-garde: the avant-garde as "stylistic dialectics," in which historical references, pastiche, and confrontations of musical language provide the driving force and confront the notion of institutionalized art. The paper ended with a self-critical discussion of the methods used and of the conclusions reached, as well as with a discussion about the influence of different modes of analysis on the ways in which we perceive music--the metaphors of "touching up the paint" and "vinyl residing" occupied an important role in explaining what analysis can achieve--and how this analysis relates to recent discourses within the musicology and music theory communities.

[23] J�rgen Langdalen's "Some Songs Simply Don't Want to Be Analyzed: Gluck and Rousseau," discussed the first scene of Gluck's Iphigenia in Tauris in terms of the function of the chorus, the recitative, and the aria. Langdalen found that the opera "isolates one of its foundational conventions--that of the aria--and puts this conventional form into play inside the action." Here it does not primarily support the communication of this or that emotional message between characters. According to Langdalen's reading dramatic vraisemblance, implied by the naturalistic storm music, for example, isolates Iphigenia's arias and requires the listeners to conceive of them as songs.

[24] Stan Hawkins's fascinating paper, "Critical Dodges in Popular Musicology: Funkamatic vs. Metatextual" was written in a very challenging form, for one narrator and two personae: Professor Metatextual ("a scholar of sociology who stems from a Marxist, modernist background and is always keen to privilege his text over others") and Dr. Funkamatic ("a musicologist who has grappled for years with the semiotic analysis of popular music"). I will include a lengthy quote here to give an idea of this "play":

Dr. F: [...] wasn't it you who said that the enjoyment of music is not necessarily dependent on an understanding of it? Furthermore, haven't you always insisted that one's listening experience need not bear any relevance to the author's own conception of the music? To put this another way, to what extent is 'interpretation' necessary for appreciating and enjoying music?

Prof. M: I would argue that to work out what is meant by interpretation we also need to consider the notion of misinterpretation. [...] What concerns me most here is whether an 'incorrect' reading actually changes anything for the student or researcher, and more to the point whether there are 'dangers' in reading meanings into a piece of music we are not 'culturally' attached to.

Dr. F: It seems quite clear to me that because musical meaning is dependent on shared understanding of musical codes there are certain aspects of western music, at least in the late twentieth century, that we all take for granted. [...] responses to and tastes in music are predominantly cultural.

Prof. M: This touches on Leonard Meyer's{9} concept of acculturation which is clearly distinct from that of John Blacking{10} who refutes the notion that 'an Englishman cannot possibly understand African, Indian, and other non-English music.' Blacking's research into cross-cultural musical enjoyment has importantly demonstrated how feelings in experiencing music can be very similar.

[25] This paper was indeed challenging and enlightening: The understanding of a work, in this case British artist Steven Patrick Morrisey's political song "Margaret on the Guillotine," (a song with an agressive message against Margaret Thatcher which created a great deal of turmoil) is not one dimensional nor is the scholar one dimensional. One important question raised was in what way the references to musical structures and the low-key sound give this piece meaning and, perhaps most importantly, what effect Morrisey's voice has (voice as body, as the person, as the character, and as an musical instrument).{11} The discussion between the two characters developed into clear formulations of very basic questions in musical scholarship: music as social activity, music as cultural organization, issues of ownership in a social context, and meaning of musicological analyses.

[26] On the last day, November 23, two papers dealing with popular music were given. Karin Petersen's "Genre Drift and Re-Actualizing in New Youth Music; or, How One Can Analyze Conceptual Works" [in Danish] discussed the music on Mike Flowers Pops album A Groovy Place--an album that can be considered a conceptual work in its re-use of covers of easy listening melodies by Burt Bacharach, Esquivel, and Jimmy Webb. Petersen claimed that a regular musical analysis is not enough to reveal the unique features of this work since the harmonic and rhythmic material is kept the same as the original. She gave hints on alternative experience-oriented analyses: material and realization, timbre and texture, and musical sound as medium for a set of activities (performance, media presentation, etc.). Other important concepts for the understanding of this work are Mike Flowers Pops's attack of the authentic rock through a strategy of double mimesis and the notion that this work constitutes an authentic expression for "The Sampled Generation," that is, a generation with an "over developed meta-cognition and media knowledege" that samples from history, against the recognized genres. As a conclusion Petersen pointed out that we need to consider the Mike Flowers Pops as well as the works of Andy Warhol in different aesthetic categories, the simultaneous and the referential.{12}

[27] The final paper, Anne Danielsen's "The Different as the Same: On Analyzing Funk," [in Norwegian] dealt with her experiences trying to narrow down a genre. She claimed that although a description of the musical features (most of all the rhythm) is not enough for the understanding of the genre, there is generally too little analysis in popular music research.

[28] An advantage with small musicological communities is that gatherings such as this one turn cross cultural and multi methodological: The Nordic countries (together twice as large as Texas with almost twice the population of the New England States) are not large enough for substantial communities in narrow fields of musical scholarship to exist. Instead methodological cross-overs are the norm. Among all the different approaches there was a common denominator that could be summed up by Dr. Funkamatic and Professor Metatextual, and I let their words conclude this report:

Dr. F: [...] my purpose has been to argue that musical imagery is disseminated through an inherited syntax, sound bites, styles, idioms, and many more such features. At any given moment, music has the force to function as a powerful metaphor for creating countless dimensions of experience. [...] Music is not just constructed from a jig-saw of disparate musemes which we can fit together semiotically to disclose some hidden meaning. [...] I must concur with the idea that as musicologists it's time we also started analysing the ways in which music affects us as individuals in order to search beyond the formalist details of notation and transcription. To begin to understand how music works on a social and cultural level, I need to first and foremost find out how it influences me, how it constructs my attitudes, and how it functions as part of the way in which we experience our own bodies and identities.

Prof. M: ...and of course how we also escape from our identities and bodies through the fantasy of musical experience!

Per F. Broman
University of Gothenburg
Department of Musicology
Box 200
SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

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