Double Syntax and the Soft Revolution

Richard Cohn

in Audacious Euphony

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199772698
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932238 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Music Theory

Double Syntax and the Soft Revolution

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Chapter 9 confronts an a priori objection to double syntax, raised variously by Dahlhaus, Smith and Lerdahl. The problem is framed through a consideration of a passage from Schubert’s C-major Symphony. Evidence in support of the cognitive viability of double syntax is recruited from linguistic theories of code switching, and from anecdotal introspection on quotidien interactions with the world. One advantage of double syntax is that it encourages a plausible model of the evolution of pitch systems across the long nineteenth century. A four-stage evolutionary model is proposed here, developing a suggestion of Patrick McCreless. The chapter and book end with a preliminary assessment of the role of overdetermination in the development of European music, not only at the level of the triad but also at that of the diatonic scale and the twelve-note chromatic collection. The duality between tonal and pan-triadic syntax explore in this book is positioned within, and seen to instantiate, a more general tension tension between acoustic and group-theoretic conceptions of musical materials and relations.

Keywords: dahlhaus; lerdahl; charles Smith; cognition; code switching; double syntax; evolution; mcCreless; overdetermination

Chapter.  7639 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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