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This free course, Voice-leading analysis of music 1: the foreground, introduces 'voice-leading' or 'Schenkerian' analysis, perhaps the most widely used and discussed method of analysing tonal music. In this course, this method is explained through the analysis of piano sonatas by Mozart. The course is the first in the AA314 series of three courses on this form of harmonic analysis, and concentrates on the 'foreground level' of voice leading. As you work through this course, you will become familiar with five complete movements of Mozart's piano sonatas, as well as shorter extracts from some of his other sonatas.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- recognise an analytical methodology known as 'voice leading analysis'
- recognise five complete movements from Mozart’s piano sonatas, and be familiar with brief extracts from other sonatas by Mozart
- recognise some defining features of Mozart's harmonic style
- understand the principles of the simplest level of voice-leading analysis
- express musical observations by means of the notation developed within this system of analysis.
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Introduction: Mozart's piano sonatas
- 2 What is voice leading?
- 3 The elements of voice-leading analysis
- 3.1 Introduction to the elements of voice-leading analysis
- 3.2 Simple reductive processes
- 3.3 Categories of dissonance in tonal music
- 3.4 The concept of prolongation
- 3.5 Making a foreground reduction
- Current section: 3.6 A second reduction: analytical levels
- 3.7 Analytical notation
- 4 Conclusion
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
3.6 A second reduction: analytical levels
Next I want you to make another foreground reduction, in order to demonstrate how the sorts of analytical observations found at this level always lead on to considerations of issues at deeper levels of the harmony. This next activity, which is based on Mozart's Piano Sonata in B flat, K570, is presented partly on video, in four sections.
Watch the first section of the video
Voice-leading analysis, Mozart Piano Sonata in B flat K570 (part 1, 1 minute)
Transcript: Voice-leading analysis, Mozart Piano Sonata in B flat K570 - Part One
You have been asked to make your own foreground analysis of the first four bars of Mozart's Piano Sonata in B flat, K570, which is shown as Example 15 below. Just as you did with K545, choose the notes in the top and bottom lines which are consonant harmony notes, and write these out on two staves. To do this, you should print out the sheet of music manuscript paper at the link below. To help you, I would suggest that you look for repeating patterns. Note that, as in K545, the rate of harmonic change is not constant. In the first two bars, the harmony changes every crotchet. In the third bar, the rate changes to minims, and in the fourth bar leading up to the imperfect cadence, the rate speeds up to quavers.
Click to open blank staves.
Watch the next clip from the video now, where my solution will be explained, and the analysis will be taken a stage further.
Voice-leading analysis, Mozart Piano Sonata in B flat K570 (part 2, 4 minutes)
Transcript: Voice-leading analysis, Mozart Piano Sonata in B flat K570 - Part Two
Next, compare your solution to Activity 14 with my graph (Example 16). I hope your reduction looked similar to mine, apart from the 10–10–10 (showing interval patterns) and crossing lines (showing voice exchange) which the video has now explained. This completes a foreground analysis of these bars. Notice that, like all musical foregrounds, it makes a good piece of simple counterpoint on its own, with no parallel fifths or octaves. This is why Mozart's harmony makes sense – we have analysed the way he was thinking of the harmonic movement in these bars.
As you watch the next part of the video, you may find it helpful to have Examples 17a–d to hand, which reproduce the next stages of analysis as demonstrated on the video. The examples are labelled ‘Level 1’, ‘Level 2’, ‘Level 3’ and ‘Level 4’. These ‘levels’ will be explained on the video, but before you watch, it might help you to know that they represent a progressive reduction of the notes of the original music. Thus Level 4 gives just the harmony notes, but still including the appoggiaturas, and Level 1 is a simple representation of the basic harmonic structure of the passage. These examples are discussed on the video beginning with Level 4 and working through to Level 1, to show you this process. Continue with the next video clip now.
Voice-leading analysis, Mozart Piano Sonata in B flat K570 (part 3, 5 minutes)
Transcript: Voice-leading analysis, Mozart Piano Sonata in B flat K570 - Part Three
When we start to analyse more deeply than the foreground level of the music, we have to spot those harmonies which are consonant in the music as it is played, but are dissonant at a deeper level – they are passing notes or neighbour notes within the same harmony.
Look at the four levels of the music printed as Examples 17a–d. Put ‘P’ and ‘N’ above the passing notes and neighbour notes in Level 3 that are missing from Level 2, and then do the same with Level 4; that is, put ‘P’ and ‘N’ above the notes that are missing from Level 3. To do this, you should print out Example 17 at the link below.
Click to view pdf of Example 17
When you have marked in the neighbour notes and passing notes, please return to the next video clip to see my solution. This time I work through from Level 1 to Level 4, showing the gradual elaboration from the middleground to the foreground and then to the full score. For your reference, Examples 18a–d reproduce my solution as demonstrated on the video.
Voice Leading Analysis Mozart Piano Sonata in B flat K570 (part 4, 2 minutes)
Transcript: Voice Leading Analysis Mozart Piano Sonata in B flat K570 - Part Four
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Music courses or view the range of currently available OU Music courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Friday, 5th February 2016
Last updated on: Friday, 5th February 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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