Towards an "Archaeology" of Hearing: Schemata and Eighteenth-Century Consciousness

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This article investigates the problem of historical modes of listening through the lens of recent research in schema theory and historically-informed music cognition (Gjerdingen 1988; 2007; Byros 2009). Substantial empirical evidence now exists surrounding two particular late eighteenth-century schemata: the 1–7, 4–3 (Gjerdingen 1988; Meyer 1980) and the le–sol–fi–sol (Byros 2009). The population distributions derived from extensive corpus study for both schemata approximate a Gaussian distribution that bells in 1750–1760 and 1810–1820, with population peaks in the 1770s and 1790s, respectively. The statistics demonstrate that late eighteenth-century schemata are highly perceptually redundant (Meyer 1967/1994) while historically limited, by following a "life cycle." By extension, the evidence implies that schema-driven listening would by nature be "historical through and through" (Adorno 2004). Occasions of such "historicized" modes of listening are examined with three case studies (Mozart's "Dissonance" Quartet, Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony and Piano Sonata in E minor), which indicate that, where eighteenth-century tonality is concerned, historical and modern modes of cognition differ respectively in the cognitive presence and absence of schemata.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-306
JournalMusica Humana
StatePublished - 2009


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