Sample SHMRG Listening Comparison
Recall all the different observations about a piece of music which can be listed under the five SHMRG categories. Remember also that all of the following characteristics can be discussed on very "micro-analytic" or very "macro-analytic" levels: that is, from beat to beat or chord to chord; from phrase to phrase or section to section; from movement to movement, and so on.
Sound: Texture, timbre and dynamics

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Number of parts
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monophonic, polyphonic, homophonic, heterophonic, melody-plus-accompaniment, other?
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Overall texture's or individual parts' range
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Orchestration, combinations of instruments, techniques of playing
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Dynamics, including crescendo, diminuendo; articulation/phrasing
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Contrast: of texture, dynamics, orchestration
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Language if texted
Harmony: Simultaneous vertical sonorities


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How many pitches are sounded and how are they related: 3- or more-note chords? Triads (stacked in thirds) versus quartal or other organizations
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Pitch relations: diatonic, modal, pentatonic or gapped-mode, atonal, chromatic
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Motion of sonorities and nature of root motion
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Cadences: preparation and resolution, predictable versus deceptive
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Presence/absence of seventh chords
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Use of dissonance: prepared versus unprepared, diatonic versus chromatic
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Tonality: overall scalar organization
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Key area: diatonicism versus modulation, fundamental keynote versus absence
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Preparation/resolution of modulation
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Key schemes as organizing structure
Melody: "horizontal" motion of a sequence of pitches through time


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Motion: conjunct ("stepwise") versus disjunct ("by leap")
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Compass (wide versus narrow); tessitura (register)
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Shape: note-to-note or overall
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diatonic, modal, chromatic, or atonal organizations
Rhythm: musical divisions of time


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Presence/absence of predominant subdivision of beat
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Beat groupings: regular versus irregular; symmetrical versus asymmetrical
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Presence/absence of characteristic rhythms
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Use of a tempo, parlando, or rubato treatments
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Layers of rhythm: hemiola, syncopation, polyrhythm and polymeter
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Rhythmic contrast
Growth: structure through time


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Phrase length; symmetry versus asymmetry
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Repetition, variation, and new material
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Markers of formal structure: repetition, cadences, contrasts (harmony, texture, instrumentation)
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Recognizable versus unique form; allusion to existing forms
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Structural expectations
Example
We can explore some of the above categories by comparing two works from the Western classical tradition, both scored for orchestra: the second movement ("March funebre") of Beethoven's Symphony #3 in Eb Major ("Eroica"), Op. 55 [from 1805] and the "Danses des Adolescentes" section from Stravinsky's ballet Le Sacre du Printemps [1913].
Beethoven
Stravinsky
Sound: Texture, timbre and dynamics
Scored for flutes, oboes, clarinet, bassoon, trumpets in C and Eb, trombone, timpani, violin I & II, viola, 'cello & bass. Initially only strings sound in this passage
Scored for piccolos, flutes, alto flute, oboes, cor anglais, piccolo clarinet, clarinet in A, Bb clarinet, bassoon, 8 horns, piccolo trumpet, trumpets in C, violin I & II, viola, 'cello, bass. All sounding here
Some polyphonic independence
Considerable independence as lines move through texture
Strings within common and expected range
Wide range in both orchestra (from piccolo to bass) and within individual parts
Strings sound alone, then serve as accomp. for oboe solo. Winds and brass provide chordal accomp.
Contrasting combinations, "layering" effect as groups enter or leave texture
Careful control of (scored) dynamics; some specific instruments for phrasing
Very meticulous and detailed control of (scored dynamics); combinations of muted versus open sounds; contrasts of legato versus detache phrasing.
No text involved
No text involved
Harmony: Simultaneous vertical sonorities
Key signature indicates Eb major, but opening chord is C minor triad. This triad repeated on subsequent downbeats. M. 4 chord changes to G7 dominant, m. 7 back to C min. Chordal motion slow and repetitive. Chromatic alterations of leading tone (bass: G-A natural-B natural-C) confirms minor tonality.
Key signature indicates Eb major, but extensive use of chromatic alterations obscures key area. Basses sound repeated R-5 figures on Eb, but then modulate without preparation to Fb (e.g., E natural). Also, especially after Rehearsal Mark 18, the strings versus brass are sounding different simultaneous sonorities.
Essentially diatonic in C minor, relative minor of Eb major.
Hard to establish a key, as cited above: too much chromaticism, too much use of cluster
Root motion predictable: i-V-i. Some use of dominant 7 (F natural) in dominant chord.
Root motion not at all predictable: moves in unprepared way to distant keys, distant by 1/2 step or other unusual relation.
Minor key cadences prepared and resolved as expected.
No use of conventional I-V-I cadencing
No modulation on this page (but if the piece overall is in Eb major, then it has already modulated to relative minor on C). This suggests overall use of modulation for different sections.
"Modulation" is not really the term for changes of tonality here: instead, changes of tonality are unprepared, unexpected, and unpredictable.
Melody: "horizontal" motion of a sequence of pitches through time
Melodic focus is clearly Violin I, then oboe. In each solo part, the melody is clearly diatonic minor (use of B natural leading tone to C tonic), and is either stepwise (conjunct) or outlining diatonic C minor chords.
Melodic focus shifts between various groupings. Texture is highly polyphonic and focus is not upon a single instrument. Much chromaticism; tonality unclear on the basis of the melodic lines.
Compass and tessitura relatively standard, though Violin I does make use of the lowest and darkest range in the instrument.
Extremes of both compass and tessitura, of individual parts and the full ensemble. Placement of parts (high or low extremes) shaping tone. Melodies move through whole ensemble from very high to very low
There is a general shape of "upward leap followed by stepwise descent" in both violin and oboe solos.
Contrast of shapes, from very angular (piccolo) to very chromatic/stepwise (flutes), to repetitive or few-note (cor anglais and violin). Also, contrast before and after Rehearsal 18, from wide-ranging, angular, chromatic melody to very repetitive struck chords on a single note.
Rhythm: musical divisions of time
Clear 2/4 metric indication.
No time signature indicated. Overall steady "beat", but not broken into conventional beat-groupings.
Characteristic rhythm: dotted-16th + 32nd + quarter.
Many contrasting or layered rhythms. Phrasing across the barline
Grace note approaches to beat 1 emphasize that beat.
Contrasting speeds of melodic lines: some based on 8th notes, some on very fast sextuplets, etc.
Divisions within beat vary but maintain overall outline.
Sudden contrast in texture, also rhythm, at Rehearsal 18.
Rhythm reminds me of something: funeral?
No use of conventional rhythm (it's too wild for that!) but it does sound very "primitive"
Growth: structure through time
To comment on growth, must listen to the full piece (e.g., not just look at these two pages)

© 2004 Dr Christopher Smith