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8 - Conclusions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 March 2021

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Summary

RESEARCH in neuroscience has revealed some vitally important discoveries about how our brains deal with new information, and this is true in conversation, reading, and looking at pictures, as well as in listening to music. In music the findings are powerfully suggestive. Before beginnings, our level of anticipation is at its highest: we are engrained with detailed expectations regarding pitch, intervals, consonance, phrasing, dynamics, rhythm, duration, tempo, meter, texture, and timbre. In performance, where music lives, beginnings are preceded by silence. When sound begins, our brains attend with strongly heightened focus; we decode beginnings with astounding speed; we form instant predictions as we listen and amend them with equal rapidity. These skills are innate and based on our evolutionary history. We are pleased when the music conforms to expectations and even more pleased when the music offers us surprises and then returns to conformity. We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating what we hear. Our responses to music coincide with the deepest processes of our brains.

Musicologists have made much of the assumption that beginnings in Classic music are always direct, stable, and reliably predictive. None of these things are true. Beginnings are multifarious, vastly varied, sometimes direct, often deliberately misleading. First movements are beginning beginnings, and the beginnings of later movements are also beginnings, though of slightly lesser valence, just as the third beat in a 4/4 measure has a lesser organizational power than the first. First-movement beginnings may stand as reference points not just within the movement but later in the work also; but they may not. In a Classic structure, the key of the first movement (usually) dictates the key of the last movement and that of some of the other movements as well. And the tempo of the first movement often dictates which movements are chosen to be in second and third places. Thus, a common beginning strategy in first movements is the establishment of key, through unisons, chords, tonic pedals, dominant–tonic harmonies, arpeggios, or scales, or a combination of these elements. Especially in his early works, as one of his stratagems to announce the key, and relying on the influence of Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven often deployed rising tonic arpeggios or tonic chords at his beginnings.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Conclusions
  • Jeremy Yudkin
  • Book: From Silence to SoundBeethoven s Beginnings</I>
  • Online publication: 27 March 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446885.010
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  • Conclusions
  • Jeremy Yudkin
  • Book: From Silence to SoundBeethoven s Beginnings</I>
  • Online publication: 27 March 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446885.010
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Conclusions
  • Jeremy Yudkin
  • Book: From Silence to SoundBeethoven s Beginnings</I>
  • Online publication: 27 March 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446885.010
Available formats
×