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Conversations with Haydn: Exploring Rhetoric and Meaning in Two Keyboard Sonatas

Julia Austenfeld (2015); Mentor(s): Alfred Cramer

Abstract: Drawing on historical, cultural, and formal studies of 18th-century galant music and on scholarship that introduces applications of linguistic concepts (such as prosody and discourse analysis) to music, this study contributes to a theory of accent in 18th-century music. It is devoted to the analysis of movements from two of Joseph Haydn’s keyboard sonatas (Hob. XVI:40, 43) through the dual lenses of classical form and the analysis of discourse and rhetoric. Both pieces contain structural as well as surface-level features which suggest discourse—one dialogue takes place between the A and B sections of the movement, while the other engages the listener as participant in the musical rhetoric through a set of expectations which build up and are subsequently thwarted. The examples explored include the perplexing use of pianissimo at major cadences, an Urlinie which never arrives on scale degree 1, and the way dynamics affect the listener’s interpretation of the dialogue between sections in ternary form. These modes of discourse provide a concise point of entry for examining 18th century galant music in context, and Haydn’s musical rhetoric here is particularly compelling because it both constructs and destabilizes meaning without saying a single word.
Funding Provided by: Class of 1971 SURP Fund