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Sonata Form: An Adventure

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Maxwell Birdnow

on 3 June 2016

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Transcript of Sonata Form: An Adventure

As you walk...
Let's get developin' on...
Deep in the Labyrinth of Selene
It's a grand library!
of a sonata form piece comes after the exposition. This is the section of the piece that contains the greatest instability of harmony and phrase structure. It is seen as a departure from the established material from the exposition; however, the material that is developed during the development may be heard previously in the exposition.
You hear music. As you listen, you realize it is a piece from the
Era... In
sonata form

Sonata Form: An Adventure
Sonata form is the quintessential Classical form. At least one movement of any multi-movement work from the Classical Era (circa 1730-1820) was bound to be in sonata form.
Sonata Form
It's a developceraptor! You thought these were just legendary! Dinosaurs who, too, have gained dream powers... wow!!
You remember more... The music playing... Is from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14, or... The Moonlight Sonata. It's the third movement, Presto Agitato!
You begin to analyze the music.
You recall that pieces of music in sonata form begin with a section called an
. The exposition begins with the
main theme
, which is typically the most recurrent theme of the piece. Ah, you have reached your destination....
It tingles, but nothing more... You are somewhat disappointed... You turn around to head back when....
It's a classicapus, a super venomous... mammal?? Hes eying you down... quickly, use your knowledge!
Sonata form reached the peak of its popularity in which era of music?
(CA. 1730-1820)

Great job, you did it!

Something awoke inside you...
Quick, shout your
answer to the
You sent it flying with a soundwave!
Nice going!
Maybe the Wall did respond after all... and your new power seems to be fueled on knowledge! Better keep your mind sharp.
Anyway, you keep walking...
...and remember that the main theme of the exposition is grounded in the
home key
of the piece. It ends with a Perfect Authentic Cadence or a Half Cadence in the home key.

A chill runs down your spine as you listen to the music that is playing... you recognize this chill... c# minor.

After the main theme comes the
, the purpose of which is to destabilize the home key. This is most often by changing the key. The transition connects the first and second
tonal areas
(main theme and
subordinate theme
, respectively). The transition may or may not begin with material reminiscent of the main theme. If it does, it is called a
dependent transition.
Transitions almost always end with a half cadence. Knowing this, you feel safe on your way to the exit until...
You notice two halflings coming toward you!!!

Quick, think hard!!!
In which key is the main theme of a sonata form piece typically grounded?
a. A Major
b. The relative major
c. The home key
d. The relative minor
c. The home key

You summoned a swarm of bees! But the other halfling is still coming for you!!
The transition is meant to destabilize the home key and modulate to a new one. What kind of cadence does the transition usually end on?
a. plagal cadence
b. half cadence
c. perfect authentic cadence
d. any of the above
b. half cadence
Here it comes!!
The other halfling's torso flew off of its body. Wowsers!
Good going. You decide to proceed.
You reach the location where you thought the exit was... but there is a brick wall with the numerals V and III inscribed where the exit should be...
Suddenly you remember why those numerals sound familiar. After the transition destabilizes the home key of the exposition, the subordinate theme takes place. Major key pieces usually modulate to V (the dominant), and minor keys usually modulate to III (the relative major). Minor keys can also modulate to v (minor dominant).
This change of key causes
tonal conflict
, which is a major theme in music in the Classical Era, as well as many additional types of music. The second theme ends with a perfect authentic cadence (PAC) in the contrasting key.
Since you cannot proceed, you decide to look for another way out.
closing section
of the exposition reaffirms the secondary key (V or III). It immediately follows the first subordinate-key PAC that moves on to different material.

Closing Section
In many sonatas, the entire exposition is repeated upon its first completion. This really drives the main and subordinate themes home and shows their contrast.
Suddenly, you hear a trumpeting sound in the distance...
Uh-oh! It's a PAC-e-derm!
Watch out for his lasers!

Quick! Fill in the blanks!
The transition usually modulates from the home key (I) to _______ in major keys and _______ in minor keys.
a. V (dominant); III (relative major)
b. IV (subdominant); III (relative major)
c. mon"key"; anar"key"
d. iii (relative minor); VI (submediant)
a. V (dominant); III (relative major)
(don't forget that minor keys may also modulate to v).
You charred him slightly...
PAC-e-derm shoots his laser and nicks your ear...
That kind of hurt!! You take four units of damage.
Round 2!
The subordinate theme almost always ends with a _______ in the subordinate key.
a. half cadence
b. drum cadence
c. ritornello
d. perfect authentic cadence
d. perfect authentic cadence
Your attack hit!!
...But all it did was
make PAC-e-derm
angry and change
its color!

PAC-e-derm is charging up energy...
This part of the exposition follows the first subordinate-key PAC that moves on to different material.
a. closing section
b. perfect authentic cadence
c. Halloween
d. recapitulation
a. closing section

You summoned an abyss, and the PAC-e-derm was transported to another realm!
You did NOT hear about that in the legend.
You reach another dead end, this time a room with the word "Luna" etched into the wall countless times.
There is an obelisk in the center of the room, pointing to a series on window on the ceiling... It's impossible to climb...
Better keep going.
The opening part of the development can be rather transitional (the
) before the piece gets to the meat of the development (the
). This core is marked by model-sequence behavior, and model can either be new material or it come from the exposition. There can be more than one core in longer developments.
The development often takes place on the dominant, but it is very harmonically unstable. The goal of the core is the dominant of the development's key.
is found toward the end of the development, and it emphasizes the home-key dominant. Its main purpose is to connect the development to the next section, the recapitulation.
As you walk, you hear a voice echoing.... It's very shrill, but it seems to be chanting...
You continue on, readying yourself to use your dream powers by flaunting your knowledge.

Eventually, you come to a wide, open room.
It looks like an abandoned ballroom.

You proceed slightly more and finally determine the source of the sound...
"Serve the Moon Maiden," chants the raptor.
"Die for the Moon Maiden."
Use dem brains!
What are the two parts of the development?

a. recapitulation and transition
b. pre-core and core
c. Laverne and Shirley
d. half cadence and perfect authentic cadence
b. pre-core and core
You struck his tail with lightning!!

...He is not amused.
He comes at you with radioactive fangs!! Good thing he barely misses. Watch out for those!
The material developed in a development may have already been heard in the exposition. What other kind of material may be developed in the development?

a. material from another piece
b. fiberglass
c. material from the transition
d. newly developed material
d. newly developed material
But it's just confetti!!!
He shot a ring of fire at you!!!
Ow ow ow ow OOWWWWWWW, that hurts!
He's coming at you with his sword!!
The development often takes place on the ______, but it is very __________.

a. transition; harmonically unstable
b. dominant; harmonically unstable
c. subdominant; out of tune
d. minor third; harmonically stable
b. dominant; harmonically unstable
You froze him in time!!!
Quick! Finish him off!
The purpose of the retransition is to connect the ______ and the ______.
a. apples; bananas
b. exposition; recapitulation
c. development; recapitulation
d. transition; retransition

c. development; recapitulation

Goodness...Let's just escape and let him do his job.
As you run away, hearing saw blades and hearty laughs, you notice there are torches lining the hallway. They are leading to a door...
You begin to look around
for any clue of how to
get out....

While Searching...
You learn about the
section of sonata form. The recapitulation brings back the exposition in a modified form. Some of the possible modifications seen in the recapitulation include:
The main theme and subordinate theme may be shortened.
The transition to the subordinate theme is modified or omitted
Often this new material acts as a "secondary development" section
The subordinate theme is now played IN THE HOME KEY.
Searching the left most wall, you find no exit. You do, however, find a book about two additional common sections of sonata form:
is a section that provides additional closing material. Of its location in the piece, music theorist William E. Caplin said,
"The coda is best located the moment when the music of the recapitulation no longer corresponds to that of the exposition, even if that moment is not perceived as a structural beginning."
These are found occasionally. Major movements may have minor
, and fast movements may have slow introductions. It leads back to the idea of contrast.....
You're about to give up, when finally...
You find a mysterious book on a table... The cover says
"Grimoire di Lune"
The pages are all in Latin... but there are pictures. It looks like there is a way out through the basement of the library... but the picture shows that you have to incant something...


In the basement, you ready yourself with the Grimoire, and then make sure you say it correctly...
You wait for a moment... but nothing happens...
But in the blink of an eye....
You are transported to a very strange realm. It is beautiful, but things are too quiet.... Wait, what's that in the distance???
Oh, no! This must be the Moon Maiden that developerator was so crazy about. You've seen a picture of this in the Grimoire! She doesn't seem too happy...
Caution, video may be disturbing to some
You can't understand her, but she begins to attack!!
Moon Maiden used Wreck!
You took 10 units of damage!
Use your brain!

The recapitulation brings back which part of the piece in modified form?

a. hoedown
b. chorus
c. transition
d. exposition
d. exposition

The Grimoire is glowing...
You look inside, and there are certain words glowing too. You shout some at random:
You summoned a meteor!!
That did some damage!!
Moon Maiden used Venom Tongue!
You took 12 units of damage!
The transition in a recapitulation may consist of new material. This can be called a:

a. retransition
b. secondary development
c. "sonata upsie daisie"
d. development
b. secondary development
You recognize a certain aura...
Better watch out!!
"Ubi fumus, ibi ignis!"
Moon Maiden used Astral Twerk!

GIGA Lumberjack ran away!!
In the recapitulation, the subordinate theme is in what key?

a. The dominant
b. The relative minor
c. The relative major
d. the home key
d. The home key!
"Errare humanum est!"
It's getting bright!
She's been blinded!
Quick, make your move!!!
The sunlight is brilliant!!!
Which music theorist determined that a coda begins when the music of a recapitulation stops corresponding to that of the exposition?
a. Steve Laitz
b. J. Peter Burkolder
c. William E. Caplin
d. Edward Aldwell
c. William E. Caplin
"Re vera, potas bene!"
Here it comes!
You used Supernova!!!
Look out!!!!!
You have triumphed. The power of the sun has defeated the Moon Maiden and light has conquered over darkness. You black out...
You wake up at home...

You have experienced what some have considered only legend, all while learning about sonata form. The knowledge you have gained has been put to good use, and this pattern shall continue. Remember that not all musicologists use the same terminology, and not all sonatas follow this exact formula. However, the sonata still affects how people write songs to this day!
General structure of sonata form
The main theme is typically the same as it was in the transition.
To learn more about sonata form, visit

Observation is the key to analysis!
Protip: If the music stops, exit the
presentation and re-enter it.
The Wall of Dreams... The legendary formation said to make your dreams come true, even during the day! Legend has it that on the night of a full moon, you can experience the power of the Wall........

You place your hand on the wall, and feel its power....
Feel your energy rising!!
Here we go...
You feel a presence....!
"Cave cibum, valde malus est!"
Full transcript