Uri Rom

The Pitfall of Diachronicity: 'Explicit' vs. 'Implicit' Musical Temporality

Because music progresses through time, we tend to take for granted that any analytical reduction of it must achieve a coherent representation along the time axis as well (Rom 2011). However, this assumption should be taken for what it is: a tacit, but by no means self-evident presupposition. To be sure, the temporal dimension of a given musical piece may demonstrably interact with its musical substance. William Caplin’s assertion that constituent time-spans express their location within musical time by way of their intrinsic properties (2009) is generally sustained by analytical and, more recently, by cognitive studies (e.g. Vallières 2009). However, while occasional discrepancies between the temporal position of a given passage and its intrinsic structural properties (see, e.g., Meyer 1973) do not necessarily undermine the role of temporality in determining musical form, I propose that comparative analysis, especially when aiming at statistical evaluation, requires a clearer distinction between ‘implicit temporality’, that is, the temporal position of a given passage as suggested by its intrinsic attributes, and ‘explicit temporality’. As will be demonstrated by an in-depth examination of one particular harmonic phenomenon (‘minorization’) in Mozart’s instrumental sonata-form movements, analogous time-spans – in terms of ‘implicit temporality’ – may occur at very different positions along the piece’s ‘explicit’ time line. While such concepts as Hepokoski’s and Darcy’s ‘sonata trajectory’ (2006), asserting an essentially diachronic view of sonata form, admittedly appeal to our intuitive notion of musical linearity, they may, at the same time, hinder our perception of analogies between passages sharing ‘implicit’ – but no ‘explicit’ – musical temporality. Furthermore, a sample survey of Mozart’s sonata-allegro movements of differing sizes suggests a statistically meaningful correlation between a movement’s size and its degree of ‘formal irregularity’, i.e., more ‘monumental’ movements tend to abound in irregular ‘leaps’ along the ‘implicit’ musical time line.