Wednesday, March 12, 2014

That Note Again

In 1999 I published What Might It Mean? An Uncommon Glossary of Musical Terms and Concepts for the Stuck, Bored, and Curious.  Now, 15 years later I find myself using it over and over again to solve problems of the sort that make me feel stuck, bored (I admit it!), and most definitely curious.  So I turn to the entry on Ratio Rhythm.

This is a concept I made up to describe what happens in Classical sonata allegro movements, in which the principal themes are defined by ratio rhythms of 4:1, usually with one theme being 4 eighths to the half note, the other 4 sixteenths to the quarter.

But in Op. 24 of Beethoven ("Spring" Sonata) we have a special case:  On the face of it there are clearly 4 eighths in the piano Right Hand to establish the proper ratio with the violin's half note.  But there are also the sixteenth notes that relate to NO quarter notes in the bar.  The value still unaccounted for is that pesky whole note in the piano Left Hand.  Aha!

There are two ratios moving simultaneously: 4:1 and 16:1 which is totally different from a bar with a staightforward 4/4 meter.  It must infer a subcurrent of sixteenths within the half note, otherwise why would the whole measure be under one bow stroke?

Could it be that this subcurrent is what turns into the trills that come before the Recapitulation?  But no one plays them that way.  They are always played like technical exercises, unk-a-chunk-a with accented quarter-note beats.