Essay on A Feminist Journey through Beethoven's Musical Structure

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A Feminist Journey through Beethoven's Musical Structure

Traditional analysis of Beethoven's use of Sonata Allegro form tends to focus on harmonic or melodic movement and key relationships. This study stretches such investigations to include questions of historical context and philosophic motivations that drive a composer to structure music in a certain way. Ultimately this leads to an inquiry about how these traditions affect us as listeners, and more specifically how they relate to gender issues in a musical tradition primarily made up of male composers.

Music of the 1700s is often characterized as highly structured and balanced. A favorite form for pieces of many kinds was the sonata form, which relies heavily on the basic
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Hadow says that Haydn and Mozart's use of the same melodic material for both the first and second subject was indicative of their influence from binary form. But Beethoven, who was "a much more daring innovator, as well as a much greater master of structure, than either of his predecessors" never committed such an atrocity, "since such a scheme would only help to stereotype an outworn and obsolete form" (61). The melodic material of the two themes makes up the exposition, melodic expansion on those themes constitutes the development and a return to the themes makes up the recapitulation. Ternary form's use of different melodic material allowed for variety while its strict key relationships kept unity throughout.

Charles Rosen, on the other hand, sees harmonic rather than melodic material as central to sonata analysis. He says that "the fact is that while the placing, number, and character of the themes, at least from Scarlatti to Beethoven, have in an importance which ought not to be underestimated, they are in no sense the determining factors of the form" (30). In fact, although Beethoven might not explicitly use the existing first theme in the next key area, often the second theme "is clearly a variant of the opening theme" (31). The key areas rather than the melodic themes can be seen as constituting a two-part
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