Analysis of Musical Form, The

Prentice Hall
James R. Mathes  
Total pages
October 2006
Related Titles


For courses on the analysis of musical form, with an emphasis on western music from 1700 to the present, in the standard Music Theory curriculum.


The Analysis of Musical Form emphasizes aural comprehension, incorporates recent analytic methodologies, and addresses musical form as both process and design.


James Mathes wrote this book due to a lack of textbooks written in the past dozen years on musical form.The relatively few texts on the market do not address recent scholarship or methodology, do not address phrase rhythm and formal processes in a systematic or thorough manner, and omit discussion of vocal forms and developments in post-tonal music of the 20th century. There is also a lack of emphasis on aural comprehension of musical forms. Separate chapters on vocal forms and 20th-century music, inclusion of recent developments in analytic methodology with suggested readings, and aural exercises, and accompanying CDs address these problems.




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Division of the text into two parts: Analytic Tools (6 chapters) and Forms of Music (8 chapters). This permits a flexible use of the text.  The first part emphasizes analytic techniques and concepts applicable to any piece of music. The second section emphasizes the discussion of formal categories and certain genres. The application of concepts from part one is encouraged by using certain recurring examples.  An instructor can profitably use either part of the text as the basis of a course. 


Separate discussions of the analysis of tonal design, thematic types and phrase structure, formal functions, and musical texture. A chapter on the analysis of cadences and tonality reinforces concepts introduced in most harmony texts, stressing their importance in the analysis and perception of musical form.


CDs containing most of the examples and exercises in the text. This reinforces the aural comprehension of concepts illustrated in the text.


An emphasis on aural experience and contextual listening is incorporated in the text, with ancillary exercises to supplement the discussions. Aural exercises with specific questions to guide the listening are included from the onset of the text and throughout. 


The main body of the text addresses the standard categories of musical form found in most texts.  Uniquely, this text contains separate chapters on modifications and expansions of sonata form, on vocal forms, and on 20th-century music.  Throughout, the text incorporates consideration of how musical form is influenced by style and genre.  Historical perspectives are also addressed to show how changing styles or aesthetics led to different formal designs and structures.


Summaries of concepts and terms are given in each chapter, and a glossary is included.  Examples are carefully annotated, particularly in early chapters, to facilitate understanding of analytic concepts and discussion.  


“Analytic Notes” are incorporated throughout to encourage critical thinking and help develop analytic skills. Suggested readings and footnote references encourage further examination of concepts and ideas. 


Focuses on the western classical music of the 18th and 19th centuries: the Baroque through late romantic periods.


A discussion of innovative approaches to formal processes in 20th century music is also presented in a separate chapter.


The concepts of form as design and form as process, and the distinction between formal design and formal structure are introduced to examine the diverse ways various types of musical form may be realized.


Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements


List of Recorded Examples


Part I:  Formal Design and Structure: Analytic Concepts and Tools

   Chapter 1:    On the Nature of Musical Form                                 


                        Formal Design and Formal Structure                         

                        Formal Processes and Functions                                

                        Form, Style and Genre                       

                        Perception of Musical Form


   Chapter 2:    Tonal Design                                                              


                        Phrase, Cadence, and Key

                        Cadences and Segmentation

                        Tonal Design and Key Relations

                        Analysis of Tonal Design


   Chapter 3:    Thematic Design and Phrase Structure                      


                        Thematic Design

                        Motives and Themes

                        Thematic Models of Phrase Structure


   Chapter 4:    Phrase Rhythm and Form                                          


                        Phrase Rhythm Defined

                        Phrase Connections:  elision, links, overlap,

                        Phrase Expansions:  introductions, internal expansions, extensions

                        Analysis of Phrase Rhythm


   Chapter 5:    Formal Functions and Musical Texture                     


                        Expository Function

                        Introductory Function

                        Transitional and Developmental Function

                        Closing and Framing Function

                        Parenthetical Function

                        Phrase Expansions and Formal Functions

                        Definitions of Musical Textures

                        Vocal and Instrumental Textures

                        Texture and Formal Design

                        Texture and Formal Processes




Part II:  Forms of Music


Chapter 6        One Part and Binary Forms                                       


                        One Part Form:  Preludes, Periods, Phrase groups

                        Simple Binary Forms

                        Balanced Binary Form

                        Rounded Binary Form

                        Expanded Binary Form


Chapter 7        Ternary and Composite Forms                                   


                        Simple Sectional Ternary Form

                        Continuous Ternary Form                  

                        Large and Compound Ternary Forms


Chapter 8        Sonata Form                                                               

Principles of Classical Sonata Form





Sonata Form in the 19th and 20th century


Chapter 9        Modifications of Sonata Form/ Cyclic Forms           


                        Slow Introduction

                        Sonata Form without Development

                        Sonata Form in Concerto Movements

                        Cyclic Form and Arch Form


Chapter 10      Rondo Form                                                               


                        Principles of Rondo Form

                        Baroque Rondeau

                        Five-Part Rondo

                        Seven-Part Rondo

                        Sonata Rondo Form


Chapter 11      Ostinato and Variation Forms                                                           


                        Introduction: Variation as Form, Genre, and Technique

                        Ostinato Variations:  Ground, Passacaglia, Chaconne

                        Ostinato as Constructive Device

                        Theme and Variations

                                    Fixed and Variable Elements

                                    Types of Variations
                                    Large-Scale Organization


Chapter 12      Contrapuntal Genres                                                              


                        Introduction: Contrapuntal Genres and Textures  




                        Chorale Prelude and Cantus Firmus Techniques


Chapter 13  Vocal Forms and Genres                                                            


            Small Forms:  Hymns and Popular Songs

Verse /Refrain, Strophic Forms, Bar Form

Small Binary, Small Ternary

            Lieder/Art Song

  Text and Form

  Exapnded Song Form

            Aria Forms

                        Barqoue Da Capo Forms and Ritornello functions

                        Classical Arias and Da Capo modifications

                        Operatic Rondò: Composite Binary Form

                        19th Expanded Rondò:  Cavatina/Cabelletta

                        Choral Forms


Chapter  14  20th-Century: New Formal Processes and Techniques              


            Pitch Collections, Centricity, and Formal Processes 

Timbre, Texture and Form

            Indeterminacy and Open Forms

            Textural Form

            Form as Process: Minimalism


Bibliography of Writings on Musical Form                                                   


Glossary of Terms                                                                                          


Index of Works Cited and Subjects                                                              


JAMES MATHES is Associate Professor of Music Theory and Coordinator of Theory and Composition a Florida State University. He received the B.S. in Music Education from the University of Maryland and an M.M. and Ph.D. in Music Theory from the Florida State University College of Music. He has published articles and presented papers based on his research and interests in music theory pedagogy, the analysis of recent music, and the relationship between theoretical and practical aspects of music.

Reader Review(s)

“I find this work well presented in every aspect.  In particular:  the flow from simple to more complex forms is done well; the attention to any one form is commensurate with the others; the author's clear familiarity with the genres in each category and each musical period; the continual emphasis on the significance of the aural aspect of analysis; the very helpful historical references throughout; and the content in paragraphs. I think it has much to offer in terms of its thoroughness and comprehensiveness, its clarity and its many excellent well-chosen examples and references.-Joyce Dorr, U of North Carolina, Asheville


There is no question that the author has identified an area of continuing need: a text on musical form for undergraduates who have completed their required study of harmony and voice-leading.I am pleased that Mathes plans to emphasize "aural experience and contextual listening". Also that "analysis and performance" issues will play a role; this responds both to the special interest and relevance of such considerations for performance majors, and to the increasing attention shown in recent scholarship and pedagogy. . . . We have needed such a book for a long while.-Robert Fleisher, Northern Illinois University


“Textbooks on musical form can easily become very wordy and abstract.  Mathes' use of musical examples and figures lessens this tendency.  He wisely has included at least one example or figure to illustrate each important concept.  This approach will make the text more accessible especially to visual and aural learners. The author has continued his systematic presentation building on previously learned elements.  I find the text easy to follow, well organized, and understandable. The approach is good especially the emphasis on listening.  Musical examples and figures strengthen and clarify the presented items.”-Gene Trantham, Bowling Green State U


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