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Theses Doctoral

Studies in the History of the Cadence

Mutch, Caleb Michael

This dissertation traces the development of the concept of the cadence in the history of music theory. It proposes a division of the history of cadential theorizing into three periods, and elucidates these periods with four studies of particularly significant doctrines of musical closure. The first of these periods is the pre-history of the cadence, which lasted from the dawn of medieval music theory through the fifteenth century. During this time theorists such as John of Affligem (ca. 1100), whose writings are the subject of the first study, developed an analogy between music and the classical doctrine of punctuation to begin to describe how pieces and their constituent parts can conclude. The second period begins at the turn of the sixteenth century, with the innovative theory expounded by the authors of the Cologne school, which forms the subject of the second study. These authors identified the phenomenon of musical closure as an independent concept worthy of theoretical investigation, and established the first robustly polyphonic cadential doctrine to account for it. For the following three centuries theorists frequently made new contributions to the theorizing of the cadence in their writings, as exemplified by the remarkable taxonomy of cadences in the work of Johann Wolfgang Caspar Printz (1641-1717), the subject of the third study. By the early nineteenth century, however, cadential theorizing had largely ossified. Instead, authors such as A. B. Marx (1795-1866), on whose writings the fourth study focuses, only drew upon the concept of the cadence as was necessary in their treatments of newly emerging theoretical concerns, especially musical form.
In order to elucidate and corroborate this historical framework, the dissertation’s chapters undertake close readings of the doctrines of musical closure put forth by John of Affligem, the Cologne school, Printz, and Marx. The theoretical contributions contained in these sources are interpreted and contextualized in light of the non-musical discourses upon which they draw, and through interrogation of the relationship between the cadential ideas they espouse and contemporaneous musical practice. In doing so, the dissertation reveals discontinuities in the concepts and functions of cadential doctrines in historical music theories, and provides new possibilities for understanding and experiencing musical structure.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Cohen, David E.
Steege, Benjamin
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 29, 2015