<---Musical Rhetoric is not a Will-o'-the-Wisp

Michele Ignelzi

Homeostasis as Negative

To reach homeostasis is not "a consummation to be wish'd" by a musical work. Homeostasis is a source of meaning in a negative sense. A piece of tonal music can win its meaning by struggling against homeostasis, and the end of this struggle, the reaching of homeostatic rest, signs the syntagmatic units with a death seal. What can defer death is swerve, deviation of the process toward subsidiary goals, the more distant from the destined end they are, the more they can delay accomplishment for a long time.
"Schoenberg declared that every new tone in a musical work raises a problem and demands continuation in order to restore the initial balance of the work" (Tarasti 1994: 45). Our point of view differs from Schoenberg's in that: continuation is demanded in order to avoid restoring of the initial balance, which we place even before the starting of the piece, and which is disturbed by the very first note already. The core of meaning is to be found in the resistance against the "motion toward a point of rest" (Robert Penn Warrený, quoted in Meyer 1967: 26), against resolution and release.
Our interpretation of musical works in Western tradition is based on a modeling (paradigmatic) analysis, since we try to grasp strategies of behavior through paradigmatization of homeostatic phases of tension and release in musical parameters. A consequence of the struggle for avoiding final accomplishment is that homeostatic courses have different degrees of stability (regional homeostasis) within a same parameter along the syntagmatic chain--the organization of this scale of stability being of greatest moment in the whole compositional strategy of a musical work--and, between different parameters in a same time span, the individual conducts of these courses are not coincident with each other, unless at the very end of the piece.
Kevin Korsyn speaks about the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata Op. 101 of a "rhetoric of evasions" (1983: 24): "the proportion between harmonic tension and resolution in the first movement may seem weighted in the direction of instability" (203). Robert Hatten's deep analysis of the whole work (1994: 91-111) shows in detail how reaching of a climax or resolving to a goal "might either upset the self-established propriety of the movement or too decisively break its continuity." The "thematic undercutting" is thus conveyed by evasions of authentic cadences and eludings of climax (100).
Similarly to the exposition of the Waldstein Sonata's first movement, where the second thematic area (in E major!) seems tonally preponderate over the C major of the first theme, in the first movement of Op. 101 the tonal balance is shifted toward the region of the second theme, here the dominant E major, with a striking ambiguity immediately at the beginning. The Sonata opens as if it were in E major, and the subsequent introduction of the D natural "undermines our initial interpretation of the key as E major by strongly suggesting tonal motion from tonic E major to its subdominant, A major" (Hatten 1994: 96). The character of A major as subdominant of E major, and the weakening (repression?) of the former as tonal goal is conceivable as the most important defense mechanism this Sonata puts into action in order to delay its end.
The ambiguity of key at the beginning of the Sonata needs enhancement to remain effective at the recapitulation: such effect is reached through change of mode: the development ends with a section in A minor, which makes the boundaries between development and recapitulation uncertain. Is it recapitulation already? To answer this question we should also consider the short cut the subsequent section takes in respect to the exposition. With a single touch, key and formal partition lose consistency.
Another means of opposing homeostasis here is the use of nonconclusive (mostly deceptive) cadences where tension would need to be released. A scheme could be useful to grasp the subtle variation and progression strategy employed:

We can observe that the first degree of the tonic occurs only in a foreign context (as fourth degree of the dominant, also interpretable as sixth degree of the mediant minor), rhetorically acting as a homonym. Each cadence is slightly different from the others, in a path going from relative simpleness to (interpretative) complexity and back. By comparing with the recapitulation, we notice that, because of the aforementioned condensation of the first group, the cadence occurring at measure 6 of the exposition is now missing; quite surprisingly, we find it back at measures 67-68 (second group), as enlargement (and obviously transposition) of the deceptive cadence at measures 15-16. Another important remark concerns the balance between major and minor regions. Major keys are clearly predominant in the exposition; the ratio is inverted in the development, where the regions of submediant and mediant minor (F sharp and C sharp minor), are of the greatest importance. They are precisely the same the cadences at measures 6 and 9 had in their background. Such circumstance increases the ambiguity of interpretation of those passages, contributing to weaken further the tonal stability of the piece.
The first perfect cadence in this Sonata occurs at measures 24-25, in the region of the dominant, and has a correspondent in the tonic only at measures 76-77. We observe here an interesting phenomenon of divergency between parameters, a rhetorical oxymoron: melody and harmony seem very clearly goal-directed, and the dynamic crescendo supports this tendency at first. Suddenly, a subito piano undercuts "this otherwise strong cadence" (Hatten 1994: 101), remarkably inhibiting the discharge of tension.
The coda reserves two hapax legomena. The first is the only fortissimo of the entire movement. This unexpected dynamic climax on a diminished seventh chord could be interpreted as the last and strongest (the strongest since the last) attempt to stop the run to the end. Afterwards, an also unique German sixth willingly (Robert Hatten would say: "with resignation") leads to a six-four unequivocally heralding the rest in the tonic.
The resistance is defeated. Was it to be attributed to the composer, or to the piece itself? In other words, does meaning originate from a relationship with outside, or dwell inside the thing? Eero Tarasti (1994: 57) would distinguish between interoceptive and exteroceptive signs, between inner and outer sign relations. If a rhetoric must be spoken of, we'll speak of a rhetoric without a rhetor, as we spoke once (Ignelzi and Rosato 1998) of a poietics without an author.

ý "[A] poem, to be good, must earn itself. It is a motion toward a point of rest, but if it is not a resisted motion, it is a motion of no consequence" (Warren 1943: 251).
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Hatten, Robert S. 1994.
Musical Meaning in Beethoven. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Ignelzi, Michele, and Paolo Rosato. 1998.
Signification in music: between structure and process. A new role for paradigmatic analysis. In Musica Significans. Proceedings of the Third International Congress on Musical Signification, Edinburgh 1992 (3), Raymond Monelle, ed. Contemporary Music Review 17:1, 39-55.
Korsyn, Kevin. 1983.
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Schoenberg, Arnold. 1969.
Structural Functions of Harmony, Leonard Stein, rev. New York: Norton.
Tarasti, Eero. 1994.
A Theory of Musical Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Warren, Robert Penn. 1943.
Pure and impure poetry. Kenyon Review 5, 228-54.

Rhetorical "Intentio Operis"...--->