Musical form as generated by timbral oppositions
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Music theorists have long asserted that the material presented at the beginning of a piece often generates the overall form organically; the form is not simply a parsing of the music into sections. Traditionally, music theorists have focused on harmony and motive as the generative elements of form. Timbre, however, has not often been considered as generative, especially when harmony and motive are readily analyzable. While there is generally a consensus among theorists on analytical tools for harmonic and motivic analysis of music, there is little consensus on any facet of timbral analysis. This is due to its recent development as a practical theoretical field, its inherent complexity, its lack of visual representation on the traditionally notated musical score, and its lack of clear definition. Building on previous work by Jean-Charles François, Judith Lochhead, Stephen Malloch, Danuta Mirka, and Lee Tsang, this study shows how musical forms can be generated from timbre generalizations that stand in opposition to each other. It proposes general formal types based on timbral centricity and timbral progression. It illustrates these forms through analyses of Joel Puckett’s It Perched For Vespers Nine, Steven Stucky’s Second Concerto For Orchestra, and my Symphony for wind ensemble. While the pieces analyzed are also rich in form-generating harmonic content, it is revealed that some of the pieces’ expressive power is rooted in the agreement or disagreement between concurrent formal plans generated independently by timbre and harmony.