Annotation for Narmour, Eugene
Some Major theoretical Problems Concerning the Concept of Hierarchy in the Analysis of Tonal Music
Annotation (by Gary Wittlich):
- Narmour criticizes much of music theory as being systemic
rather than truly hierarchic.
"[I]n a true hierarchy, as opposed to a systems view of
levels, whatever happens on the lowest level becomes
permanently embodied in the next level and thus continues to
influence that level regardless of how generalizable the
next level appears to be." (135) Compared with systemic
reductions (e.g., Schenkerian graphs), which Narmour regards
as fully decomposable because each subsequent level subsumes
the previous one and is no longer influenced by it, in a
true hierarchy levels are only partly decomposable and feedback may occur
from a subsequent level to reinterpret a previous level.
Key to Narmour's approach is closure in any parameter--
especially in melody, harmony, and duration patterns--and implication-
realization patterns (discussed more fully in his earlier and
later writings). See his Figures 7-12, in particular, for a comparison
of his proposed methodology with the systemic approach. His Figure 15
analyzes melody, harmony, and duration patterns in the
opening phrase of Mozart's Sonata, K.331, and his
final Figure 23 provides a preliminary musical notation that
attempts to capture hierarchy in the melody of this phrase by using
note heads of different sizes.
Within the article, he also criticizes analyses of the Mozart K.331
theme by DeVoto, Schenker, Lester, and Meyer.