Saturday, 9:00–10:30 am

Engaging with Bach

Chair: Mark Anson-Cartwright (Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center)

  • Reading Meter from the Middle: Metric Archetype and Temporal Design in Bach’s Gigues
    Rowland Moseley (Harvard University)
  • On the Subject of Tonal Answers: A Closer Look at William Renwick’s Paradigms
    Sarah Marlowe (New York University)
  • Program

    Reading Meter from the Middle: Metric Archetype and Temporal Design in Bach’s Gigues

    Danuta Mirka’s recent Haydn–Mozart study develops an account of metric perception that claims a particular reconcilation of “projection” theory with traditional descriptions of metric structure. Another kind of reconciliation between the two is pursued here. Again, the aim is a model of meter that illuminates the rhythmic ingenuity of composers, while taking account of the temporal condition of listening. Yet there are marked differences between Mirka’s approach and that of this paper. The resulting dialogue will be of interest to those currently engaged in “hypermeter” studies and anyone interested in the potential for metric analysis to register variations in style, genre, and historical period.

    The repertoire considered here is early eighteenth-century. I report on a thorough study of Bach’s binary gigues, which addresses metric process in terms of the emergence and decession of coherent metric “states.” For this paper, Bach’s metric technique is exposed to detailed investigation in the gigues from the Cello Suites in D minor and E-flat major. First, I ask what archetypes of metric design are evident. And second, how metric effects are created by harmonic, melodic, and motivic relations at different levels of rhythmic organization.

    The defining feature of this study is that it takes as the basic unit of metric analysis the phenomenon of “weak” beats (operating at many levels). In perception, a “weak” beat is privileged because it combines the beginning of a new duration with the continuation of an ongoing, larger duration. “Weak” beats are consequently important sites of rhythmic activity. For high levels of meter, they are often moments of great clarity—and rhythmic exuberance—in Bach’s music. The double awareness embodied in these articulations elicts a thorough re-working of “projection” theory to accommodate the traditional principle that meter is fundamentally about “two levels.”


    On the Subject of Tonal Answers: A Closer Look at William Renwick’s Paradigms

    Renwick’s work is invaluable for its contribution to Schenkerian scholarship on fugue (Renwick 1995). However, his subject-answer paradigms raise important issues in their application. First, Renwick’s paradigms present a more sectionalized view of fugues than Schenker (1926/1996), or even Renwick, intended. By isolating the opening subject-answer statements in his paradigms, Renwick de-emphasizes the answer’s prolongational function in the fugal exposition. Second, Renwick’s foreground sketches of the paradigms are discordant with their treatment at deeper structural levels. Pitches that appear to be prolongational in his paradigms are prioritized at deeper structural levels. This is particularly problematic with tonal answers. The inconsistency between Renwick’s local and large-scale sketches suggests that his original paradigms do not fully account for the linear motion projected in tonal answers. I propose modified paradigms that offer more middleground specificity, stronger emphasis on the answer’s function within the fugal exposition, and more accurate representation of the foreground similarities between the subject and tonal answer.