MUS 312 Form & Analysis

C. Structural Functions

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  1. EXPOSITORY FUNCTION:  The purpose of expository units is to "expose" musical materials that are important in the context of the complete structure's organization.  Expository units are typically characterized by clear phrase structure that is often periodic.  In tonal music, harmonic activity that serves to establish a prevailing tonality reinforces the perception of expository function.

  1. TRANSITIONAL FUNCTION:  (harmonic) Serves as a connecting function between sections of relative repose in the musical context.  Transitional passages, therefore, may possess attributes that support the perception of movement, such as: unpredictable fragmentary structural units, rhythmic agitation, dynamic contrasts, and frequent changes in other structural phenomena.  In tonal music, they are characterized by harmonic activity that serves to dissolve the previously established key and to establish a new one.

  1. DEVELOPMENTAL FUNCTION:  (melodic) The primary attribute of developmental passages is the presentation of motivic material heard previously in changed, or varied, form.  Such passages are often tonally unstable and thus share some of the attributes associated with transitional function.

  1. TERMINATIVE FUNCTION:  The function of these passages is to bring sections of complete works to a close.  Primary attribute: tonal activity that confirms and reinforces an established key.  Continuous cadential activity and static tonality typically mark such sections.  Terminative passages may exhibit the clear phrase structure of expository units, or they may be more fragmentary in nature.  Also, such units may involve the variation of previously exposed motivic material, and thus be partially developmental in function.

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