Analysis as Multiplicity

Chris Stover

This article addresses a central concern of everyone who teaches music theory: "When we think about analyzing a piece of music, we should always be prepared to think about what kind of an activity analysis is, what it intends to do for us, and what the appropriate means are for carrying it out. An important goal is to enrich our perspective of what is possible within the context of the music: this is true whether we are coming from the standpoint of listeners, composers, interpreters, or improvisers. We should step back, too, and consider seriously how a creative reading of a musical work transcends the notes themselves to account for things like historical contexts and the range of previous performance practices that have affected subsequent interpretation. At the same time, we might strive to consider equally seriously the kinds of analytic methodologies that have been brought to bear on the music, and how those methodologies have worked both to illuminate various aspects of the music's structure and possibly to foreclose alternative readings; that is, to limit how we might interpret the music. When we analyze music as improvisers - shifting our focus from interpretive to productive orientations - these kinds of considerations can become even more pronounced."