I’ve been reading through Haydn piano sonatas every morning. This is music in which everything makes sense. But I keep thinking about the repeat signs.
There are a lot of them. Whole sections, in the opening movements but also in the slow movements; in the rondos, often every eight bars get repeated, which is almost Glassian. These repeat signs are quietly subversive, disrupting the idea of sonata form’s “dramatic architecture” that we learned about in music school.
Everyone is familiar with the repeat sign around the first half of the movement: we repeat the exposition to build familiarity with the themes and reiterate the motion to the secondary key. But what about the repeat signs around the second half of the movement? Once the fundamental conflict is resolved, why repeat the development and recapitulation? There is no internal teleological reason. We’re home already. Why venture out again?
The only reason is hedonism. Classical-era sonatas are supposed to be Apollonian, but the impulse here is Dionysian. We take the repeat because it’s music, and we like music. Because it was fun to resolve the conflict. Because we enjoyed the music, and we’d like to hear it again.
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• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
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