Joel Galand

Some Schenkerian Implications for Sonata Theory

In their monumental Elements of Sonata Theory (2006) James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy (H&D) devote comparatively little space to the Schenkerian implications of their approach, but what they do write is intriguing, opening up broad avenues for research. This paper contributes to that project.
Part one of my presentation confronts Schenkerian theory with the hierarchy of ‘default’ strategies that H&D erect around the “medial caesura” (MC). In their “first-level default” exposition type, an MC on a half-cadential V in the new key effects a two-part division at the juncture between transition and secondary theme. Lower-level defaults include the possibility of an MC being articulated by a perfect authentic cadence in the new key (i.e., no local, halfcadential “interruption” effect). Techniques like the “blocked MC” may attenuate the caesura, or there may be more than one MC (as in the “tri-modular” block), or the MC may be absent altogether, yielding a “continuous”, rather than two-part, exposition. How do these strategies collectively provide a conceptual scheme against which we can map possible middleground approaches to the ^2/V of the underlying interruption form? Conversely, how can Schenkerian voice-leading transformations provide a grid for categorizing and elucidating H&D's defaults? (For example, the “blocked MC” often arises when the V is first established by what Schenker would call an “auxiliary cadence” [‘Hilfskadenz’]).
Part two introduces H&D's concept of rotational form—“two or more (varied) cyclings … through a modular pattern or succession laid down at the outset of the structure” (2006, 16). Each of their five sonata types is one instantiation of rotational form. I focus on their Type 4 sonata, which embraces the sonata-rondo hybrids, and especially subtype 4.1, which Schenker partially misunderstood. The underlying Schenkerian interruption paradigm usually confirms the rotational aspect of this subtype, although sometimes it cuts across it.