Lesson 0: What is analysis?

This blog is about Functional Analysis in music. For people already familiar with music analysis, I have an explanation of what I believe FA is and does https://functionalanalysis.wordpress.com/what-is-functional-analysis/

But, I’m also expanding to start posting about how to learn FA from the ground up, whether you are a musician, not, or somewhere in between, so I thought I should explain theory and analysis before diving into the how to do analysis.

Broadly speaking, Music Theory is thinking about constructs, ideas, and philosophies that inform music analysis. This includes looking at multiple pieces and thinking about what they have in common, and then making guidelines, rules, or assumptions about other pieces, based on prior experience. Theory can also serve as a guideline when writing music; if you want to write music that sounds like Mozart, you have to analyze a bunch of Mozart, figure out what makes it have that particular sound, and then try to imitate the style. This blog is more about the analysis than the theory.

Music Analysis is the process of listening to a piece of music repeatedly, looking at it’s printed score when available, and trying to figure out how the music works. Sometimes we do this for fun, sometimes it’s to understand a piece to perform it better, or to understand it better when listening. Sometimes it’s because we want to write a similar piece. There are many reasons, and all of them are right!

There are also many types of analysis: are we looking at words and music together? just notes? melody vs chords? rhythm? what instruments are making what sounds? Each of these can be done in brief or in detail, and there are others I’m sure I’ve forgotten. However, every type of analysis serves the overall goal of discovering what makes the music do what it does.

The important point, which we sometimes forget when we have been doing analysis for a long time, is that analysis is about music, how that music impacts us as listeners or performers, and understanding how the music creates that emotional impact. However, remember that music is individual, and each person may hear different things in the same recording, and the emotional impact varies from person to person. Why does this song make me want to dance? Why does another make me cry or have chills? What makes this piece so famous that we’re still playing it 400 years later? How does this music encourage pride, joy, anger, or paint various stories and pictures?

Functional Analysis is primarily about notes that form chords (notes sounding at the same time). However, we don’t want to forget how these chords interact with other parameters: loudness, sound color, rhythm, words, etc, to form musical, emotional impact. In these lessons, I will strive to keep this in mind, and point out impactful moments and what I think makes them tick. You might have a different idea, and that’s awesome. The important thing is that you can explain your idea, using musical facts you’ve uncovered using different kinds of analysis to support yourself. Arguing about competing analyses is a time honored tradition!

So, I hope this clarifies the purpose of the lessons explaining Functional Analysis, and I hope you read, enjoy, and give me feedback on them!

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