A Theory of Musical Narrative

A Theory of Musical Narrative

Byron Almén
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/4/2008
Format: cloth 264 pages, 44 music exx.
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-35238-5
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Byron Almén proposes an original synthesis of approaches to musical narrative from literary criticism, semiotics, historiography, musicology, and music theory, resulting in a significant critical reorientation of the field. This volume includes an extensive survey of traditional approaches to musical narrative illustrated by a wide variety of musical examples that highlight the range and applicability of the theoretical apparatus. Almén provides a careful delineation of the essential elements and preconditions of musical narrative organization, an eclectic analytical model applicable to a wide range of musical styles and repertoires, a classification scheme of narrative types and subtypes reflecting conceptually distinct narrative strategies, a wide array of interpretive categories, and a sensitivity to the dependence of narrative interpretation on the cultural milieu of the work, its various audiences, and the analyst. A Theory of Musical Narrative provides both an excellent introduction to an increasingly important conceptual domain and a complex reassessment of its possibilities and characteristics.

Author Bio

Byron Almén is Associate Professor of Music Theory at The University of Texas at Austin. He is co-editor of Approaches to Meaning in Music and co-author of Tonal Harmony.


"In this pathbreaking study, Byron Almén convincingly demonstrates that a piece of music can convey a narrative that is intrinsically musical, not added by a program or text." —J. Peter Burkholder, Distinguished Professor of Musicology, Indiana University

"Almén's work is far reaching both for music theory and musicology and will make a substantial and timely contribution to the study of musical narrative." — Michael Klein, Associate Professor of Music Theory, Temple University

"[N]atural, elegant, and convincing . . . a must for all music theory collections. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through researchers and faculty." —

"A Theory of Musical Narrative is an impressive and thought-provoking study which includes many fascinating ideas and insights as well as a comprehensive critique of previous literature." —Music Analysis

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Table of Contents


Part 1. A Theory of Musical Narrative
1. An Introduction to Narrative Analysis: Chopin's Prelude in G Major, Op. 28, No. 3
2. Perspectives and Critiques
3. A Theory of Musical Narrative: Conceptual Considerations
4. A Theory of Musical Narrative: Analytical Considerations
5. Narrative and Topic
Part 2. Archetypal Narratives and Phases
6. Romance Narratives and Micznik's Degrees of Narrativity
7. Tragic Narratives: An Extended Analysis of Schubert, Piano Sonata in B Major, D. 960, First Movement
8. Ironic Narratives: Subtypes and Phases
9. Comic Narratives and Discursive Strategies
10. Summary and Conclusion

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