a page with an index of posts on musical analysis--guitar sonatas and contrapuntal music for guitar and other musical stuff

This blog goes back to 2006 and along the way I've blogged a bit about music.

The music blogging here tends to focus on sonatas for guitar, fugues for guitar, chamber music involving the guitar and other assorted topics.  I like fugues and I like counterpoint. I also like sonata forms and am interested in sonata forms in the guitar literature.

Back around 2015 I wrote a lengthy series of blog posts analyzing sonata movements from the early 19th century guitarist composers Diabelli, Molitor, Matiegka, Giuliani and Sor. There are 22 posts in that series as a whole and there are tags for each of the composers.



For posts more generally about guitar and sonata form, which will include the above in the tag.


I've got a post about Leo Brouwer's Fuga.

Another thing I've written about is the writings of John Borstlap in general and his book The Classical Revolution in particular.


I've blogged about ragtime a little bit.

This has included noting similarities between the reception history of jazz and ragtime and the reception history of rap.


A more esoteric, theory-laden thesis is

On the possibilities of spatial-temporal correspondence between the syntactics of ragtime and sonata forms

I'm refining that one as of early 2019.

For more general musical analysis not organized by sub-topics ...


Lest the tags give you the impression that it's all classical guitar blogging from the look of this page, that's not how it is.  I've had fun writing a few thousand words-ish on a Stevie Wonder song, for instance.


One of my soap boxes is my conviction that  music education has amplified rather than diminished a fracture between "high" and "low" musical arts.  I'm interested in composition and music theorizing and analysis that can be put towards the end of reducing that distance.  I write as a classical guitarist but I played in an aspiring prog rock band for many years and have some affection for early blues and jazz and some country (Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr. in particular).  So when this blog is about music it's not "always" going to be about what people might call classical music but that "is" a pretty dominant topic.

So ... I also have a tagged series of posts discussing at least some (and I hope, eventually, all) of Nikita Koshkin's 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar.

Here is a review of a book on music by Roger Scruton that is up at Mere Orthodoxy

and a review of a book by John Borstlap

Borstlap left a comment at Mere Orthodoxy and it suggests he was not a very attentive or engaged reader.  Despite having referenced works and ideas by Joseph Kerman, Susan McClary (not that I agree with them); Edward A. Berlin; Charles Rosen; William E. Caplin; and Hepokoski and Darcy; and, yes, Adorno, Borstlap seems to have only noticed the writings that dealt with the political history of the arts in postwar Western life or those theoretical writings that he regards in some general way as "political".  The Caplin and the Hepokoski and Darcy books are not political works.  Neither is Charles Rosen's standard monograph on the Classic era.

Conversely, Borstlap concluded his book with a statement so overwrought it seems apt to quote the purple prose at moderate length:

High art is an exercise of what is best in the human being. It offers a learning process of the intellect and the emotions that can lead to an increased awareness of what we really are and should be, and, as such, a source of inner strength. It was exactly this role that the classical music repertoire played in World War II and in the period directly following this fundamental crisis; it would be unthinkable that people would scramble among the ruins of bombed city centers, desperate to hear a performance of Xenakis, Stockhausen, or Boulez (or in a later period along the glass and steel facades of modernist office blocks to hear the sonic art of Lachenmann, Widmann, or Birtwistle) hoping to be uplifted and to feel again what it means to be a human being. Their work is a product of, not an answer to, the devastation of war trauma and the emptiness of the modern world. If we allow sonic art to be music, we finish off the jobs of destruction set in motion by Hitler and Stalin. … (The Classical Revolution, page 123)

The idea that allowing the sonic art of Xenakis to be music somehow finishes off the jobs of destruction set in motion by Hitler and Stalin is a gambit to Godwin accepting any notion that Xenakis wrote music.  It's also casting a polemical point in the most explicitly political way imaginable in a Western context.  For Borstlap to demur that he was not writing a political book or a book with political polemics is in absurdly bad faith if the moment he encounters a sympathetic but constructively critical review of his book he hand waves a number of the criticisms with generalities about how the reviewer seems to have done a lot of political reading.  Elements of Sonata Theory isn't a political tract.  Other books I've read that didn't need to be brought in include George Oldroyd's The Technique and Spirit of Fugue; Verrall's monograph on counterpoint; Kent Kennan's monograph on counterpoint in 18th century style; Rosen's sonata forms monograph; Elaine Sisman's work on Haydn and variation form; Matthew Riley's monograph on the minor-key symphony in the age of Haydn and Mozart; and Ben Johnston's Maximum Clarity.  I could throw in books by Bruce Haynes and Leonard B. Meyer but some of those names got dropped into the Scruton review as relevant.

In sum, Borstlap's reading of the review and his comment in response to it dodged a fairly direct question as to whether or not he's ever read any Adorno's work at all.  That Adorno's polemics have had a pernicious influence on Western European arts patronage I don't really even intend to dispute. I dispute Borstlap's broadbrush blaming Adorno as somehow having caused the upsurge in sonic art.  Blaming Boulez and Stockhausen?  That I can understand, but I can quote Adorno at moderate length lambasting the integral serialists and John Cage in fairly equal measure.  If defenders of traditionalist classical music can't do better than inadvertently replicating Adorno's put-downs of integral serialism and aleatoric music without even seeming to have known he wrote those, a defense of traditional classical music will not benefit from these sorts of self-appointed defenders of traditions.

I tried to make a comment in reply to Borstlap but Mere Orthodoxy's comments box kept deleting them for reasons nobody can explain.  So ... sometimes a comment in some other context goes up.

This page is going to get updated and modified as new material gets completed.  To get a clearer sense of what stuff is incubating that hasn't quite made it to the point where it's tagged and shows up on this page the main page/blog is the place to go.


Is "everyone always stealing" black music? Wesley Morris' NYT 1619 project piece flips the script of the German Romantic ideal but still seems to play by it

I found Morris' essay frustrating because, well, I explain why at length in the essay that you can read if you want.  

Here are the posts that discuss and analyze Nikita Koshkin's 24 Preludes and Fugues for Solo Guitar from Volume 1

Koshkin's Preludes and Fugues posts

C major
A minor
G major
E minor
D major
B minor
A major
F# minor
E major
C# minor
B major
G# minor

All these posts link to videos of the performed works and have time indications for where things happen so that even if you don't have a score to read along with you can compare what is being written about to what you can hear on the pertinent link to Youtube videos per post. At the moment there has not been, in my opinion, enough extensive writing on contrapuntal music for solo guitar, so I've been trying to remedy that situation.   When Volume 2 gets recorded the plan is to have a comparable set of analytic/descriptive posts that will complete my discussion of Koshkin's preludes and fugues and links for those will be posted to the blog and also updated here at this page.

Ragtime and Sonata Forms is finished, basically.  Maybe an appendix or two is eventually in order but the 18 part series with bibliographic references can be found by the end of today using the following tag.  As of 4-24-2020 it's posting as an 18 part series in reverse order for scrolling reading purposes.  It's about 50,611 words so it's not a small project. If you want the "bottom line it, show me how this lets me try it" read just part 18.  If you want the extended repudiation of the dumbest ideas Adorno came up with that are paradoxically intertwined with some of his most brilliant conceptual work on why he hated the music of Stravinsky and American popular music parts 1 through 15 are where you'll want to go (if you want to read such a project at all to begin with).


If you want a chapter-by-chapter survey of what's in Ragtime and Sonata Forms:

Ragtime as Musical Ice Cream

Arthur Weld’s plea to combat musical vulgarity, including rag-time and coon songs

A Case for Ragtime from Hiram Kelly Moderwell in 1915

Adorno’s “On Jazz” and his later polemics against the popular music

Adorno’s contrast between light and serious music: organic development vs prefabricated building blocks for prefabricated feeling

Adorno on Types of Listener, popular music as mood altering drug

  Adorno’s legacy on aesthetics and popular music by way of Roger Scruton

Adorno's Philosophy of New Music and norms of musical cognition

Between forms of non-choice--Adorno's criticism of serialism and aleatory in his later writings, while still rejecting jazz (and rock) in his final work

Finding a 21st century future for ragtime in 18th century composition manuals with the help of Elaine Sisman

Ragging the Classics ... with the music of Giuliani and Sor

Adorno's modes of cognition, George Rochberg on time-space and space-time

George Rochberg on pluralism and questions of style

Leonard Meyer on pluralism, styles, and the ideologies of Romanticism in the late 20th century

Leonard B. Meyer on the shift from the 18th to 19th C from seeing sonatas as "scripts" to seeing sonatas as "plans"

Are we actually “done” with the Romantic era?: Meyer on the advent and replication of novelty Raymond Knapp on the German Idealism of pop music criticism
William Caplin’s Classical Forms--the building blocks of themes in the eighteenth century and possible application toward Scott Joplin’s themes in “The Entertainer”

Elements of Sonata Theory by Hepokoski and Darcy—syntactic scripts for the time-space of sonata forms, charting out the ragtime sonata

Appendix 1: recapitulation rag--on the return of B strains as closing themes in the literature

Appendix 2: Ragtime and cumulative setting or cumulative form

Bibliographic references [updated 4-27-2020]

Ethan Hein did analyses of two wonderful tunes by Thelonious Monk and I could not resist blogging some thoughts about why I also love "Straight, No Chaser" and "Rhythm-a-Ning"

also ... since he wrote about the early 2021 fad of sea shanties that got me thinking about how an old pirate song was transformed into one of the most famous and beloved hymns of the shape note hymnody tradition "Wondrous Love" and why, for choral singers, what is absolutely awful voice-leading practice in the tradition of William Byrd is just fine in Southern Harmony.

Tuning is for Killjoys (a review at Mere Orthodoxy of Ted Gioia's Music: A Subversive History)

some extended quotes from Augustine's De Musica from the old English translation. I proposed that Augustine's often tedious discourse on rhythm in Latin poetry could best correspond to the concept of "flow" in hiphop and that rather than rehearse old debates about Platonism and Pythagorean ideas we who are alive right now can engage with Augustine's work in a more direct way and see what ideas we can glean from what Augustine wrote rather than just take the words for it from scholars who have told us about Augustine.

Thus ... 

In other words ... Ted Gioia's handling and understanding of Augustine was so egregious I thought it merited a rebuttal. I still like to read him but when it comes to Augustine he dropped the ball at multiple levels. 

more on Gioia's book

If you want to read a write-up on Kerry McCarthy's readable biography on William Byrd

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