Traditional techniques

2.8 Segmenting music into chords

In this section we look at the question of how many chords the music should be segmented into and what those chords should be. We will study the question with reference to the opening of Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata, following the analytical commentary in Cook, pp. 22–5. Once again, however, the first thing to do is to listen to the music.

Individual activity: Listening to Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata

Access a recording in your collection or online. Listen to at least the first movement but preferably the whole of the Pathétique sonata and, as with the Waldstein, do so initially without even following a score. Once again, make a personal record of your experience of this music, making a note to yourself of anything that strikes you in the piece, whether it be a particularly dramatic moment, a spine-tingling harmonic shift or an interesting pianistic texture. It could be anything but if it catches your attention then it has a significance. Note where such features appear (in minutes and seconds within your recording) and briefly describe them in non-technical language.

Remember to save these preliminary notes that you make for all of the music in the course. What you create in this way will be a very personal record of your own experience of this music. It is a valuable document that will make for fascinating comparison with our attempts to understand the music through analysis.

Now let’s look more closely at the first 10 bars. These can be found on p. 23 of Cook or you can follow the file below. The passage may also be downloaded from this unit’s resource page in MusicXML, PDF, MuseScore and Sibelius formats.

Ex. 2.8.1: Pathétique bb. 1–10Downloads

Group activity: Analysing the Pathétique

Look closely at the first 10 bars of the Pathétique and consider the discussion of this passage on pp. 24–5. This is a development of the idea that we looked at in the previous section as well as in unit 1 – the fact that analysis involves an element of interpretation. Post your comments to the Traditional techniques forum regarding Nicholas Cook’s interpretation of the harmony in this passage.