Better Proposal draft

I’m much happier with my proposal draft now. Here’s the first third or so:

In this dissertation, I aim to establish an updated system of Functional Analysis. This will be based in part on Hugo Riemann’s Funktionstheorie, borrowing many of the functional ideas but focusing very little on the transformational ideas associated with Neo-Riemannian. In this way, Functional Analysis resembles the type analysis currently in use in Germany, but I have translated and adjusted it for English speakers to maximize easy implementation. Additionally, I have adapted Functional Analysis to flow smoothly into Schenkerian-type reductive ideas. The focus of Functional Analysis is Common Practice Period music/tonality, but I will also show ways in which Functional Analysis can apply to more modern music, including later Romantic chromatic music and modal or pop music.

I aim to not only define and demonstrate Functional Analysis, but to also show historical, pedagogical, and practical reasons for adopting it. There are many historical theories that support a functional view of harmony, even before the word “function” was used in music theory or analysis. Recent pedagogical ideas trend toward using analysis to show function, and master pedagogues suggest functional ideas to help students learn better and faster. On this count, I can offer first hand experience from teaching Functional Analysis a year ago.

The way Functional Analysis is designed means it can often provide new insights into Common Practice Tonality more quickly than current methods. This could prove a boon to performers and musicians that mistakenly see Theory as forbidding and difficult. I want performers and musicians of all types to be able to use theory to their advantage, to find theory undaunting, and maybe even fun. Since many of us still deal with Common Practice Period functional tonality (and those who don’t still are often in dialogue with the Common Practice Period), I believe that making this music easier to understand on a deeper level could help many musicians of many different types.

Functional Analysis is a harmonic analysis system, that focuses on roots from a bass-oriented perspective. It is triad based, but takes a more flexible view of chord tone versus non-chord tone when determining roots, preferring to privilege function and bass rather than the current practice of only building chords out of thirds. It can also be used to provide insight into voice-leading, phrasing, and larger forms.

An introduction to Functional Analysis begins with the concept of cadence, which defines the three primary functions (Tonic, Dominant, and Predominant). Since cadences in turn define phrases, this means that students get a chance to understand and analyze phrase structure, even if only at a surface level, right away. This then leads to a functional outline of typical harmonic progressions before focusing in on harmonic details. The exploration of harmonic details unfolds naturally into discussion of voice-leading, while the larger-scale focus of phrasing progresses to form and large-scale reductive techniques.

This system has significant pedagogical implications and motivations. In my experience as a teacher, I have seen the need for analysis tools that are easy to use and remember. I have designed Functional Analysis to facilitate easy use. Additionally, to meet that goal of ease, I have designed Functional Analysis from an aural basis – what your hear is what you label – and with performers in mind. Functional Analysis is adaptable for personalized analysis, acknowledging that different people hear the same music in different ways.

One of the principal performer-directed aspects is the flexibility of levels; different levels/depths of analysis may be appropriate for different levels of performer (or amount of time till performance). Levels are also useful as a pedagogical tool for theorists who wish to continue on to Schenkerian Analysis.

While on the surface Functional Analysis may not look all that different from current harmonic analysis, I have found it leads to new or different understandings of harmony. Tonic and Dominant functions are already fairly commonly used, but secondary functions (replacements of the primary functions) are more challenging to talk about with current labels. Also, predominants are acknowledged to be the most flexible and flavorful category in harmonic analysis; Functional Analysis draws connections between different flavors of predominant and helps both to show their similarities and to remember their differences.

Finally, for both students and performers of all types, the aural grounding, the simplicity, and the flexibility with and emphasis on multiple levels leads to much faster analysis. Students may learn to be fast with current methods; with Functional Analysis speed is much more inherent, having an emphasis on learning larger chord chunks by understanding harmonic rhythm and phrase motion before dithering over details. This process of chunking can lead to more expressive phrasing in performance and faster memorization.

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