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Musical analysis

Musical analysis can be defined as a process attempting to answer the question "how does this music work?". The method employed to answer this question, and indeed exactly what is meant by the question, differs from analyst to analyst.

Analysis is an activity most often engaged in by musicologists and most often applied to western classical music, although music of non-western cultures and that of an oral, rather than written, tradition is also analysed. An analysis can be conducted on a single piece of music, on a part of a piece or on a collection of pieces.

The process of analysis oten involves breaking the piece down into relatively simpler and smaller parts. Often, the way these parts fit together and interact with each other is then examined.

Some analysts, such as Donald Francis Tovey (whose Essays in Musical Analysis are among the most accessible musical analyses) have presented their analyses in prose. Others, such as Hans Keller[?] (who devised a technique he called functional analysis) used no prose commentary at all in some of their work.

There have been many notable analysts other than Tovey and Keller. One of the best known and most influential was Heinrich Schenker, who developed Schenkerian analysis, a method which seeks to reduce all tonal[?] classical works to a simple contrapuntal sequence. Rudolph Réti is notable for tracing the development of small melodic motifs through a work, while Nicolas Ruwet's analysis amounts to a kind of musical semiology.

Further reading

  • Nicholas Cook - A Guide to Musical Analysis

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