Music Parametric Analysis   

 copyright © 2002, 1998 by Larry Solomon  

Parameters are stated as questions for concision and to provoke response.

A. General parameters

1. Dynamics: notated? terraced, graduated, constant? Independent of texture? Balance?

2. Tempo: constant or varied? sudden or gradual changes?

3. Meter: ametric, polymetric, multimetric? regular meter? constant or changing? pronounced?

4. Rhythm: patterned? description of pattern. changes in pattern? syncopations? time/note values. accents? multivoiced rhythms? Effect on texture, melody, and tonality?

5. Texture: monophonic, homophonic, polyphonic, contrapuntal, heterophonic? homorhythmic? thin or thick? Changing? paired voicings? polarization (as in melody/accompaniment, solo/tutti, antiphony, etc.)?

6. Media: Voices, instruments intended and realized? Idiomatic writing? Unusual or exploratory use of the medium?

7. Timbre: How are the instruments used in combination? Is there an exploration of timbre in the composition? How important is timbre? sprechstimme? klangfarbenmelodie?

8. Thematic/motivic structure: Diatonic, chromatic, modal, use of sequence? Intervals used? phrase lengths? periods?

9. Thematic/motivic development: repetition or variation? types of variation (e.g., augmentation, fragmentation, interpolation, octave displacement, permutation, isomelos, inversion, etc.)? Imitation? counterpoint?

10. Cadences (melodic/rhythmic): prominent? formulated? Where do they occur in the form?

11. Harmony: Chord structure: tertian, quartal, secundal, clusters, set structure. Intervallic? Number of pitch classes used. Nucleus? voicing?

12. Cadences (harmonic): Tertian authentics? coincidence with melodic/rhythmic cadence? formulated?

13. Harmonic motion: patterned repetitions? periodic change? Harmonic rhythm (rate of change)? Root movements? diatonic vs. chromatic movement? planing?

14. Tonality: atonal, polytonal, modal, polymodal, multimodal, keys, tonics, modulations?

15. Pitch range (gamut & tessitura) and intervals: statistical content, frequency, usage. microtones?

16. Form: standard formal types? sectional divisions and relationships? Process: continuous (as in a canon) or sectional (as in ABA)? Small and large scale relationships? Symmetry? Relation to any of the previous 15 variants (above)? Is there a formal principle used to generate the composition?

B. Special Parameters for Vocal Music

17. Tone painting? Does the text relate to the music? Does the rhythm of the music conform to naturally inflected speech, or is it metric? Doctrine of affections? Are text and music related by formulae? Syllabic or melismatic setting? Symbolism? Special vocal techniques?

Suggested Parametric Analysis Outline (example)

A. Full title of composition ___Well Tempered Klavier, Vol. 1, Prelude in C major_______________

Date composed __c.1722________ Movement? or part? __first prelude in series________________

B. Composer's first and last name __Johann Sebastian Bach_________________________________

D. Composer's nationality __German____________________________________ Opus # ___none__

E. Important characteristics and distinctive techniques (always fill in medium)

1. dynamics: none notated, assumed constant

2. tempi: none notated, constant

3. meter: common time , constant, not pronounced

4. rhythm: relentless flow of sixteenth notes is established at the beginning of first measure and continues until the end. This flow prevents any cadences until the ending.

5. texture: constant, polyphonic, five voice texture, with voices conforming to the rhythmic flow. All voices equal in importance.

6. medium: keyboard, presumably harpsichord or clavichord. Idiomatic deployment of arpeggiated chords, but no exploratory use of medium.

7. timbre:  monochromatic. Timbre is unimportant.

8. thematic structure: Diatonic, with use of sequence. Uses arpeggiated tertian chord structure. Phrases are not rhythmically delineated, but the harmonic progression indicates a pattern of four-measure phrases.

9. thematic development: repetition, with gradual variation by means of small interval changes in the voice leading.

10. melodic/rhythmic cadences: no strong cadences until the end

11. harmony: all tertian trichords and tetrachords (seventh chords); voicing is mostly in close position.

12. harmonic cadences:  authentic V7 I at the end

13. harmonic motion: root movements are patterned diatonically in seconds and upward fourths; harmonic rhythm is constantly one chord per measure

14. tonality: key of C major with movement to the dominant domain in the central part and return to the tonic near the end; use of secondary dominants and leading-tones, but no real modulations

15. pitch range: limited to C2 to A5

16. form: nonstandard form typical of preludes; first section is completed in measure 19 on tonic

17. vocal:


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