MUS 312 Form & Analysis

E. Ternary Principle

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The ternary principle is fundamentally one of statement, contrast, and restatement: A-B-A.  Thus, it is embodied in pieces of music that are divided into three main parts, the second of which is perceived as differing substantially from similar first and third parts.

Developmental function, which in part defines the relationship between Parts A & B in mature binary structures, is absent in typical ternary structures.

Simple Ternary Form

OPEN AND CLOSED SECTIONS:

Closed--If a section closes in the key in which it began, it is termed a closed section.

Open--If a section does not close in the key in which it begins, it is termed an open section.

In the Classical Period (1750-1825), simply ternary structures are somewhat rare.  In the 19th century, ternary structures are found most typically in moderately short instrumental pieces.

B sections are frequently open, although closed B section are found.  Some form of transition back to the A section, however, is typical.  The tonal organization of the middle (B) section is less predictable in Romantic-period works.

Composite Ternary

A composite form is one in which smaller forms are clearly perceived in the articulation of the larger form's structure.  The composite ternary form in the Baroque and Classical periods, for example, was very often the result of the composition of two back-to-back binary dance movements, the first of which was literally repeated.  A minuet and trio are typical of composite ternary movements of the Classical era.

In most composite ternary movements of the Baroque and Classical periods, Part B is a closed tonal unit.

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