An investigation of periodicity in music, with reference to three twentieth-century compositions: Bartok's Music for trings, percussion & celesta, Lutoslawski's Concerto for orchestra, Ligeti's Chamber concerto




Mountain, Rosemary

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An investigation into the nature and functions of periodicity is presented through analysis and discussion. Periodicity is established by the repetition of any musical event at regular intervals in time. The three works analyzed exhibit periodic elements in a variety of contexts and on different structural levels, thereby illustrating typical functions of periodicities in complex twentieth-century music. These functions include stratum delineation, textural definition, and metric-style organization. In some cases, the regularity of the periodicities is crucial to their function, while in others the periodicity of the elements simply provides a convenient model for study. Reference is made to perceptual tendencies and thresholds including Gestalt principles of grouping, the phenomena of auditory streaming and fusion, and the temporal limits of the perceptual present. As our response to periodicities is affected by the specific rate of recurrence, a classification is made according to the rate of recurrence. The links between rate and function are discussed. Boundaries are suggested for three main divisions: very fast rates (less than 0.10"), medium (between 0.10" and 10"), and long (greater than 10"). An additional tripartite division of the medium range is proposed, incorporating the levels of pulse, sub-pulse, and super-pulse. The term "super-pulse" is introduced to emphasize the potency of the pulse-grouping level. Relationships between levels of periodic events are described in terms of rhythmic consonance and dissonance. The analyses show that a contrast in the degree of rhythmic consonance is a typical means of indicating structural boundaries. They also suggest a link between the levels which produce a dissonance and the degree of harshness felt. Consonance on several levels adds significant coherence to a stratum, enhancing its recognition in complex textures or on later appearances.



Musical form, Music, 20th century, Analysis, appreciation