Hypermetric Manipulations in Haydn and Mozart: Chamber Music for Strings, 1787 - 1791

PDF Hypermetric Manipulations in Haydn and Mozart: Chamber Music for Strings, 1787 - 1791 1 août 2021

Book author
  1. Danuta Mirka
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For the past four decades, the concept of hypermeter has been routinely applied to eighteenth-century music. But was this concept familiar in the eighteenth century? If so, how is it reflected in writings of eighteenth-century music theorists? And how does it relate to their discussion of phrase structure? In this book, a follow-up to the award-winning Metric Manipulations in Haydn and Mozart, author Danuta Mirka unearthes a number of cues that point to eighteenth-century recognition of what today is called hypermeter, and retraces the line of tradition that led from eighteenth-century music theory to the emergence of the modern concept of hypermeter in the twentieth century. Mirka describes the proto-theory of hypermeter developed by German music theorists, recounts the recent history of this concept in American music theory, evaluates contributions made to it by authors working within different theoretical traditions, and introduces a dynamic model of hypermeter which allows the analyst to trace the effect of hypermetric manipulations in real time. This model is applied in analyses of Haydn's and Mozart's chamber music for strings, which shed a new light upon this celebrated repertoire, but the aim of this book goes far beyond an analytical survey of specific compositions. Rather, it is to offer a systematic classification of hypermetrical irregularities in relation to phrase structure and to give a comprehensive account of the ways in which phrase structure and hypermeter were described by eighteenth-century music theorists, conceived by eighteenth-century composers, and perceived by eighteenth-century listeners.


Midway through the introduction to Metric Manipulations in Haydn and Mozart (2009) I briefly pause in order to explain why I decided to postpone the discussion of hypermeter to another study. In support of this decision I invoke practical considerations—a book including a thorough discussion of both meter and hypermeter would far exceed a standard size—but the most important reason I offer is that several aspects of hypermeter are conditioned by phrase structure and hence related to a different branch of eighteenth-century music theory than the theory of meter. This branch, meant to supplement the theories of counterpoint and harmony, was the theory of melody. Inaugurated by Johann Mattheson in Kern melodischer Wissenschaft (1737) and included in Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739), it was further developed by Joseph Riepel, Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, and Johann Philipp Kirnberger, and laid out by Heinrich Christoph Koch in the second part of his Versuch einer Anleitung zur Composition (1782–93). This is why Koch’s discussion of “mechanical rules of melody” takes the pride of place in the present book.

As should be clear from its title and the cover jacket, Hypermetric Manipulations in Haydn and Mozart forms the second part of the project launched by Metric Manipulations. The conceptual link between the two parts manifests itself in their common methodology, combining perspectives from historical and modern music theory with insights from the cognitive study of music. It is further reflected in their common repertory, specified in the subtitles, and it is apparent from their parallel layout. Both Metric Manipulations and Hypermetric Manipulations start with theoretical and historical discussion, follow with classification of individual phenomena, and then widen their conceptual horizon to account for aesthetic function of such phenomena in eighteenth-century music and the role they play within musical form.

In Hypermetric Manipulations the theoretical and historical discussion takes place in the first two chapters and it reveals the most important difference of this book in comparison with its prequel. Whereas Metric Manipulations starts with a summary of eighteenth-century theories of meter, there are no eighteenth-century theories of hypermeter to summarize. Instead, in chapter 1 I unearth a number of cues that point to eighteenth-century recognition of what today is called hypermeter and I retrace the line of tradition that led from eighteenth-century music theory to the emergence of the modern concept of hypermeter in the twentieth century. This I accomplish in two tries. The first try departs from the concept of compound meter, the second from the theory of meter presented by Johann Philipp Kirnberger and Johann Abraham Peter Schulz in Johann Georg Sulzer’s Allgemeine Theorie der schönen Künste (1771–74). Although compound meter was related to hypermeter by others, I show that it had little to do with the development of hypermeter in the eighteenth century. By contrast, the analogy between measures and phrases, posited by Kirnberger and Schulz, forms the germ of the proto-theory of hypermeter developed by Gottfried Weber in his Versuch einer geordneten Theorie der Tonsetzkunst (1817)—but the analogy is flawed. The flaw was detected by German music theorists in the course of the nineteenth century and resolved by Theodor Wiehmayer in Musikalische Rhythmik und Metrik (1917), Wiehmayer’s solution adopted by Heinrich Schenker. In the further course of chapter 1 I trace more recent history of hypermeter in American music theory. I evaluate contributions to the development of this concept by authors working within the Schenkerian tradition, then I turn toward Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff ’s generative theory of tonal music, revisit an important article by Candace Brower (1993), and introduce a dynamic model of hypermeter as an extension of my dynamic model of meter presented in Metric Manipulations.

In chapter 2 I turn to phrase structure. In the eighteenth century this subject was subsumed under the theory of melody and based upon the parallel between music and language. In the first part of the chapter I discuss classification of caesuras and melodic sections contained by them. Since the former were equivalent to punctuation marks (period, colon, semicolon, comma) and the latter to grammatical units (sentences, clauses), the application of linguistic terminology to musical phenomena was unavoidable and its replacement by musical terminology was an arduous process, which took several decades. My discussion of this process and the complex pedigree of individual terms, their meanings changing from author to author, makes of this part of chapter 2 an adventurous read. In the second part I treat the different lengths of phrases, I link the preference for regular fourmeasure phrases to regular hypermeter, and I discuss four-measure phrase rhythms using Wiehmayer’s taxonomy as a convenient roster to map out the set of analytical categories elaborated by American music theorists in the last three decades.

The first two chapters are followed by a series of five chapters devoted to different types of hypermetrical irregularities. The first type is caused by irregular phrases. Such hypermetrical irregularities are discussed in chapter 3. Further hypermetrical irregularities result from transformations of regular phrases. In chapter 4 I discuss hypermetrical irregularities caused by techniques of phrase linkage, including overlap and elision, and in the following chapters I turn toward hypermetrical irregularities caused by techniques of phrase expansion. In chapter 5 I consider parenthesis, repetition, and appendix, all of which were discussed by eighteenth-century authors. In chapter 6 I address further means of phrase expansion, which were not recognized by them. In chapter 7 I analyze hypermetrical irregularities beyond phrase structure and find further proofs of eighteenthcentury recognition of hypermeter in the theory of harmony.

The parallel between music and language, which underpins the theory of melody, extends from the realm of grammar into that of rhetoric. While these domains are distinct from each other—grammar refers to sentences and rhetoric deals with longer utterances—rhetoric can encroach upon grammar for the sake of expression. Such phenomena, called rhetorical figures, are discussed by me in chapter 8. There I focus on two rhetorical figures—ellipsis and anadiplosis—and I suggest that further rhetorical figures account for some of the phrase expansions discussed in chapter 6. In chapter 9 I turn toward the aesthetic category of “humorous music,” which emerged in the last decade of the eighteenth century. A discussion of this category is found in chapter 8 of Metric Manipulations. In the present book I link it to the theory of multiple agency, proposed by Edward Klorman (2016), and apply it in two case studies of hypermetric manipulations which take place in the first movements of Haydn’s string quartets Op. 50 No. 3 and Op. 64 No. 1. My analyses reveal how such manipulations act in concert with ingenious deployment of musical topics and contrapuntal-harmonic schemata, and how they affect musical form.

I conclude Metric Manipulations with a chapter which compares the roles of metric manipulations in Haydn’s and Mozart’s personal styles. Yet no such chapter is included in the present book. While in the course of my discussion I offer informal remarks about the popularity of certain phrase constructions and their more or less frequent use by Haydn and Mozart, each of these remarks would have to be substantiated by a corpus study of Haydn’s and Mozart’s chamber music for strings and, in some cases, tested beyond this corpus. This is warranted by the discovery that many phrase constructions described by eighteenth-century music theorists are not found in string chamber music by Haydn and Mozart while many of those found in this repertory are not described in music-theoretical treatises of the time. The fact that techniques such as parenthesis, repetition, or appendix receive detailed discussions in composition handbooks suggests that they must have abounded in the first half of the century, but they lost their popularity in the second half and were replaced by new techniques of phrase expansion, some of which I am the first to describe. In all likelihood this historical process went hand in hand with the development of musical forms and took different routes in different genres. Tracing it will be a fascinating area of future research which I hope to undertake in the years to come.


The first drafts toward the present book come from 2006, but they would not have turned into a book manuscript without help and support of many people and institutions. The most significant institutional help was provided by the Leverhulme Trust, which supported Hypermetric Manipulations in Haydn and Mozart with their two-year research fellowship in 2014–16. It was during this period that I updated the drafts and developed the outline of the entire project. The Leverhulme Research Fellowship was flanked by research leaves sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Having granted their research fellowship for my project of Metric Manipulations in Haydn and Mozart, the foundation supported its sequel with two renewed three-month research stays in Germany in 2011 and 2017. I spent both these stays at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. Both of them were matched by institutional research leaves from the University of Southampton. I thank the former Head of Music, Francesco Izzo, for supporting my application for research leave in 2017 and tolerating my three-year absence from regular teaching duties. The eminent colleagues who read different parts of the manuscript include Kofi Agawu, Poundie Burstein, Richard Cohn, Justin London, and William Rothstein. For paving its way towards publication in the Oxford Studies in Music Theory series, I owe a debt of gratitude to the series editor, Steven Rings, and a number of people at Oxford University Press. The first to name is Suzanne Ryan, the former OUP Music Books Editor and Editor-in-Chief for the Humanities, whom I thank for skillfully shepherding the manuscript through the peer-review process and for her unfailing trust in its author. To her successor, Norm Hirschy, and his editorial assistant, Sean Decker, I express my thanks for smooth takeover and their professionalism at every stage of the process. I thank further Tim Rutherford-Johnson for copyediting the manuscript and Cheryl Merritt for coordinating the various strands of book production. Apart from illustrations reproduced from historical sources, all the examples and figures in this book were masterfully prepared by Andrew Maillet. I cannot thank him enough for his care in rendering my complex annotations. Chapter 6 draws upon material from my article “Punctuation and Sense in Late-EighteenthCentury Music,” which was originally published in Journal of Music Theory, 54, no. 2, pp. 235–82. © 2010, Yale University. Republished by permission of the rightsholder and present publisher, Duke University Press (www.dukeupress.edu).​
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