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    Caplin's "Unusual Hybrid"

    edited April 2015 in Questions

    Dear colleagues:

    In the chapter on "Hybrid Themes and Compound Themes" in Classical Form, William E. Caplin notes that one potential hybrid theme is mostly absent from the repertoire. To quote in full:

    Of all the logically possible ways in which the various phrases of the sentence and period can be combined to make a hybrid, one pattern is conspicuously absent—a theme that begins with a presentation and ends with a consequent. As shown in Figure 5.2, such an arrangement of phrases brings a threefold statement of the basic idea. The resulting redundancy of material within an excessive tonic prolongation likely explains why this potential type of hybrid seldom appears in the repertory (p. 63).

    He gives something like the following diagram for this mythical sentence+period centaur (Fig. 5.2, p. 63):

    The "Uncommon Hybrid," after Caplin's Fig 5.2 (Classical Form, p. 63)

    Perhaps to reinforce the argument, not a single example of such a threefold basic idea is given in the book. So I ask you, collective wisdom of SMT: do you have any examples of a phrase/piece which begins by stating its basic idea three times?

    I've got one example, which I'll share to start the discussion: the slow movement of Haydn's Symphony No. 46, which repeats its basic idea three times. It's not a perfect example - it follows a model that I'm tempted to call, within Caplin's system, "presentation + continuation," since it lacks both a strong cadence, and the 'contrasting idea' in mm. 7-8 that the diagram demands.  That's not ideal, since "pres. + cont." is essentially his label for a normal sentence...but it's a start!

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    • 9 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • Would "We WIsh you a Merry Xmas" be considered to follow this pattern?

      Poundie Burstein


    • Thanks to William O’Hara for raising this interesting topic, one that I obviously struggled over.

      First, a general point.  My discussion was framed in the context of the high classical repertory, and was never meant to embrace earlier or later styles.  So it is not surprising that we find possible examples outside of the classical style, and most especially in the children’s songs cited by Mark Richards, where emphatic repetition is clearly an aesthetic advantage. 

      Second, I want to endorse Mark’s observation that the “third” statement of the basic idea needs to be modeled closely on the first statement.  Indeed, when the third statement is even more remote than the second statement, it tends to have marked “continuational” implications.   As he notes, one fundamental characteristic of “consequent” as a phrase function is the notion that it brings a “return” of the opening basic idea so that the phrase as a whole can give a strong impression of repeating the prior antecedent.  (The second main characteristic is the stronger cadential close.)

      Turning to the musical passages cited as possible examples of this “unusual hybrid,” I would agree that the most exemplary—probably the only true example in the lot—is the Mozart Flute Quartet (cited by Antares Boyle), again for the reasons noted by Mark.  Indeed, I find it rather ironic that this hybrid option, which I characterized as aesthetically problematic, appears in a work for flute, an instrument that Mozart explicitly declared that he disliked. 

      Beethoven, Op. 27/1, i:  I agree with Mark that we can hear each “real” measure as half a notated one, but I’m not entirely convinced by his understanding bar 2 as a repeat of the basic idea.  The harmonic support is there, of course, but the reversal of melodic directionality is decisive for me in hearing a contrasting idea.  And when Beethoven brings back the original descending contour in bar 3, we hear a “return” to the basic idea to project a consequent phrase.  I thus think the first phrase is better understood as a compound basic idea than a presentation.  By the way, Beethoven could have readily composed the unusual hybrid if the melodic line in m. 2 had been:  Ab–Ab–F. 

      Farewell Symphony (cited by Phil Duker): looking at the melody alone, the passage obviously suggests a three-fold statement of the basic idea.  But the harmonic support counters an interpretation of the unusual hybrid.  The marked change from the tonic prolongational support of the opening eight bars (I–II42–V65–I) to the cadential progression beginning on I6 at m. 9 (the leap in the bass is decisive) and continuing on to close the theme at m. 15 doesn’t conform to the normative harmonic pattern of a consequent phrase, but rather projects a clear “cadential” phrase to follow the presentation.  (BTW, this cadential phrase, rather unusually, lacks any continuational characteristics.)

      Haydn, Piano Sonata in G, Trio in E minor (cited by Dmitar Ninov):  If we are talking about the same piece (the trio), then I don’t see a three-fold repetition, but rather, if anything, a four-fold one, which conflates into a single repeated four-bar phrase.  So I don’t see the situation as comparable. I find here a repeated presentation (statement/response) followed by a very compressed continuation and cadence.

      Haydn Symphony 46 (cited by William O’Hara): again, an exclusively melodic perspective suggests the unusual hybrid, but I think William is correct in hearing this third statement as signaling continuation function, especially because of the harmonic/tonal destabilization that arises from the modulation to the D major.  As I’ve suggested throughout my work on classical form: Harmony is King!

      Fauré Trio (cited by Darryl White):  Though not directly related to the unusual hybrid, the theme is interesting nonetheless.  I agree that it’s essentially sentential, though I might hear the continuation already beginning with the third statement of the basic idea, in that it, along with the fourth, brings a more modified harmonic support.  As for cadence—a topic that I’m trying to stay away from in this post, but can’t really do—if we think that the basic idea itself ends with a cadence (which I’m not sure about in any case), then it would be one of “limited scope” (see my JAMS 2004 article), one that does not affect the overall sentential structure (a good classical case is the opening main theme of Mozart’s first piano sonata in C, where the “cadences” in mm. 3 and 5 each end the basic idea and thus are of limited scope).  Beyond those kinds of situations, the question of an “interior cadence” in the sentence would take us way beyond the scope of this discussion.

      Maple Leaf Rag (cited by Carson Farley):  At least at the beginning of the theme, I don’t see an unusual hybrid, but rather:  mm. 1–4, presentation; mm. 5–8, continuation (change of harmony and fragmentation); mm. 9–12, cadential; cadential phrase repeated in mm. 13–16. 

      Finally, though it is the wrong season, “I Wish You a Merry Christmas” (cited by Poundie Burstein):  Again, melodically we might think it to be the unusual hybrid.  But the harmonic support here is sequential from the very beginning: first statement: I [V/IV]–IV; second statement V/V–V; third statement V/VI –VI, final bars, cadential.  This “non-classical” theme can thus be said to “begin” already with a sense of continuation function.  If we want to hear a presentation, which I don’t, it would have to be confined to the first four bars (as kind of modified statement/response), and then the third statement would be manifestly continuational. 

      Harmony is King!!

    • Dear Mr O'Hara and Colleagues,


      You are right on the target! In my article "Basic Formal Structures in Music: A New Approach" (Music Theory and Its Methods, Peter Lang 2013, pp.179-208), among other things, (including comparison between European and North American approaches to basic structures, proposing new terms, devising a looser definition of a musical phrase, and presenting some atypical period forms which defy conventional definitions) I come into great polemics with Wiliam Caplin's discussion of the Schoenberg's sentence (including his notion of cadence and how a musical phrase is supported harmonically). 


      The "unusual hybrid" as described by Bill Caplin is, for me, the only legitimate hybrid between a typical sentence and a typical period. Therefore, I would describe most of the hybrid forms presented in Caplin (1998) as illustrations of contrasting period or a period of development type (a form of contrasting period), and therefore, instead of saying: "antecedent plus continuation plus cadential" I prefer to simply say "contrasting period" and do not burden my memory with the over-hybridization discussed in Classical Form.


      On p. 196 I give an example of a genuine hybrid between a specific sentence (Sentence of Schoenberg) and a parallel period - a combination of a presentation phrase and a consequent phrase, which I name "sentence-period".

      This is the opening of the trio from Hydn, Piano Sonata in G, Hob. XVI:11. But that is not all. On p. 203 I give an example of a compound sentence-period: a combination between a compound presentation and a compound consequent in the main them of Schubert's Impromtu in A-flat, Op. 142. No. 2.


      In relation to a musical phrase, I am not the only one who frees it from the mandatory condition of ending with a harmonic cadence. Bill does that too, and so do other authors whose writings have not been translated in English. My own definition states, "a well-outlined musical idea that is bound to expire at a point of division" I also add that "typically, but not exclusively, a phrase will end with a harmonic closure."  


      Basically, I would like to reiterate what I have told Bill numerous times in our past heated arguments on cadence and small form. While I highly appreciate the time, labor and creativity he has invested in Classical Form, and I myself use some of his ideas and terminology while teaching small forms and sonata-allegro, I think he has also embarked on four impossible tasks:

      1. To change dramatically the notion of cadence, by drawing a difference between the terms "closure" and "cadence", eliminating the Plagal cadence and half-cadence from the classical landscape, and renouncing all types of imperfect cadences involving inverted D or T.

      2. To prove that in all cases of Schoenberg's sentence, there is no interior cadence but the presentation phrase always unfolds over a tonic prolongation. This notion is immediately defied by such cases as Mozart, Sonata No. 1 in C major (K279) where not only the presentation phrase (which is compound), but also its half - are supported by what Bill himself describes as "extended cadential progression". Kostka/Payne/Almen also show cases in their book with tangible interior cadences in a sentence, and Schoenberg himself never engaged himself in locking the "beginning  of the sentence" into an indisputable tonic prolongation. He did not discuss any cadential issues there.

      3. To prove that functional prolongation automatically erases the notion of cadence. This impossible engagement collapses in view of numerous cases of well-developed musical ideas which unfold over a pedal point (the most conspicuous form of prolongation) and whose design is a parallel or contrasting period. Example: Schumann, Op. 68, No. 18 Schnitterliedchen. Another one: Chopin, Waltz in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2, where the parallel compound period is made of two sentences, the continuation phrase of the first one held over a dominant pedal point in contrast with the tonic pedal in the presentation. This contrast could never be defined as "tonic prolongation".

      4. To renounce the notion of "contrasting period" (which Schoenberg also did, by simply recognizing as period only the parallel forms) and offer in its place a compendium of hybrids which, in my mind, would hardly establish themselves as didactic models into the minds of those analysts who prefer simplicity and clarity.


      In my article I also discuss and illustrate in detail (I think that happens for the first time in American theoretical musicology) the difference between a compound period (made of four phrases) and a genuine double period, which consists of two parallel periods which do not make up a binary form, neither represent a repeated period.  Each of these periods ends with a PAC in a different key. As you will see, two good examples are given of those structures, and another conspicuous one is from a prominent Beethoven work, which I will not mention here. In Classical Form, Bill Caplin also mentions the difference between "compound" and "double" and even calls an example by Mozart (if I am not mistaken) but does not publish it in his book. In all other theory books I have opened, the conventional reiteration and mixing up of double and compound takes place. 


      Finally, I will cite myself with your permission: "Analytical concepts must be developed according to the principle of accommodating greater diversity in music, rather than forcing musical examples to fit into a pre-existing theory. In order to attain that goal, one must think of musical analysis as an open system whose parameters are not strictly set around the boundaries of of a given historical period, but are ever oscillating, ready to absorb reasonable and sometimes conflicting ideas" 

    • In addition to Poundie's example (nice one!), the example I like to use for this Hybrid is the opening movement of Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony (where the basic idea is 4 bars long). The final cadence is problematic, and basic idea is harmonized differently in all three statements (in the third statement i morphs into a V/iv), but I think this can best be understood as a Presentation + Consequent phrase. 



    • The subject of hybrid themes in general is interesting. I use William Caplin's categories but also augment them with more recent thinking that (I think) builds on his work.

      I have been particularly challenged by my research interest--the chamber music of Gabriel Fauré--and how he plays with the sentence form (his favored theme type). I would be interested to know what folks think of the form of the subordinate (second) theme of mov. II of Fauré's Trio Op. 120. There you will find a basic idea that is two bars long. It is stated (with variations) four times, each time ending with a cadence. It is followed by a brief linking phrase that is followed by a continuation (complete with fragmentation). After a cadential fall and failure to close, the cadence is reattempted and melodically closed (the harmony is ambiguously on the submediant).

      As an aside: I agree with Dr. Ninov that there are sentences with interior cadences. If my Fauré example is some kind of sentence then there you go. I think Matthew Bailey-Shea (and others) has shown that the sentence is a flexible theme type. Some of the examples that Schoenberg gives in Fundamentals of Musical Composition have clear interior cadences.

    • The opening theme of Mozart's Flute Quartet in C Major, mvt. I, is an extremely simple 8-bar example of a theme following this format (basic idea – varied basic idea – basic idea – cadential idea). 

    • Scott Joplin uses reiterations of threes in phrases as in Maple Leaf Rag.  

    • I don't have a copy at home, but I believe that Mark Richard's talks about the idea of a thrice-repeated basic idea (among other things) in “Viennese Classicism and the Sentential Idea: Broadening the Sentence Paradigm.” Theory and Practice 36 (2011): 179-224." I saw him give this paper at MTSNYS a few years ago and it was great.

    • The way I understand this unusual hybrid, the third idea must be more like the first idea than is the second such that it produces a sense of return in the manner of a (parallel) period. Antares' example above of Mozart's Flute Quartet is exceptionally clear: a I-IV presentation followed by a return to the original basic idea and a contrasting idea to form a consequent.

      Another example would be the opening of Beethoven's Piano Sonata in E-Flat, Op. 27, No. 1. As long as one hears two "real measures" for each notated one (not unreasonable with the slow tempo), then we have a I-V statement-response presentation followed by a consequent that returns to the first basic idea and moves on to a contrasting idea.

      Perhaps because of the simplicity of this structure, it is found in a number of children's songs as well:

      - Skip to My Lou

      - The Itsy, Bitsy Spider

      - Pop Goes the Weasel

      "Skip to My Lou" has a presentation based on statement-response repetition like the classical examples listed above. In the last two example, the presentation is instead based on exact repetition, meaning that the first two ideas are supported by the same harmony.

      In "The Itsy, Bitsy Spider," the second idea is clearly differentiated from the first by the transposition of the melody up a third.

      In "Pop Goes the Weasel," what distinguishes the second idea is the small but prominent change in the its ending. This allows the third idea to act as a return, being more similar to the first.

      P.S. Brian, thanks for the free advertising!