An Analysis of Evan Bennet's Improvised "Miniature" for Piano [Except, Work In Progress]

An Analysis of Evan Bennet's Improvised "Miniature" for Piano [Except, Work In Progress]

By PhilipDaniel | Musica Melopoetica | 15 Apr 2020




Melodic Analysis

fig. I


Introduced at the beginning in the right hand, the Hauptstimme*  [fig. I] (g♭- f - a♭- e♭- c) belongs to pitch class {0, 1, 2, 3, 6}. This first melodic phrase spans three measures.

The second melodic phrase [fig. II], a variant of the first, spans two measures.

fig. II


Besides the original five pitches of the first melodic phrase, an additional pitch (b♭) intercepts the g♭ and a♭. Otherwise, the pitch order remains the same while the rhythmic values undergo diminution. Thus, the pitch class represented in the second melodic phrase (g♭- f - a♭- e♭- b♭- c) is {0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6}. This does not constitute a great alteration of this melodic gesture, merely a “filling out” of the intervals and a slight intensification (by diminution) of the duration occupied by the melodic phrase. 

Take notice of the imparity of measures, suggesting a prose-like approach to melodic phrase structure, which lends itself well to continuous developmental variation of the Hauptstimme.

fig. III


Though still deeply structurally entwined with what has already transpired, the third melodic phrase [fig. III] departs more considerably from the first. The pitches g♭- f - b♭-  d♭ - c constitute pitch set {0, 1, 4, 5, 6}. Though g♭ remains a melodic tonal center, and this melodic phrase retains the pitches g♭- f - b♭ - c from the prior melodic phrase, the omission of a♭ and e♭ elide the pitch class intervals 2 and 3, while the emergence of d♭ as the initial note of the third melodic phrase introduces pitch-class interval 5 (filling out the distance between pitch-class intervals 4 and 6 in the prior melodic phrase).

Note that the first two melodic phrases begin with (tonic) g♭, while the third melodic phrase begins with (dominant) d♭. This d♭ is the highest pitch in the melody thus far. As a dotted quarter note tied to an eighth note, it is the second-longest pitch in value, after the dotted half notes (tonic) g♭and (“Lydian” subdominant) c of the prior two melodic phrases.

This warrants a deeper inspection of melodic shape.

The first melodic phrase [fig. IV] features a sustained note, followed by an ascent by major second, a descent by minor third, a descent by major second, and finally a descent by minor third again. Hence the alternation of motion by major second and minor third lies at the basis of the construction of this initial motif.

fig. IV


The second melodic phrase mirrors the shape of this melodic gesture, a small ascent followed by a larger descent [fig. V].

fig. V


The initial ascent of the first melodic phrase enlargens from a major second to a major third, while the descent consists of a major second, minor third, major second, and minor third. Though this melodic phrase preserves the approximate shape of the initial melodic gesture, the intrusion of a major third (heretofore absent from the melody) presents a slight disruption of the original melodic form that the rest of the melodic phrase seeks to resolve through repetition of the first melodic phrase’s intervallic alternation, modified only in length but not in pitch order and overall shape.

The ascent followed by descent of the first two melodic phrases undergoes transformation in the third melodic phrase to become a descent followed by an ascent [fig. VI].

fig. VI


Descent by a minor second (from the presumptive dominant) gives way to descent by a major second and descent by a perfect fourth, followed by ascent by a minor second, back to the presumptive tonic.

As the distance between the first two pitches of the second melodic phrase spans a major third [fig. VIIa] ...

fig. VIIa


… the distance between the first and third pitches of the third melodic phrase spans a minor third with an interjected pitch (a minor second between the first and second pitches, a major second between the second and third pitches) [fig. VIIb] ...

fig. VIIb


… rendering the third melodic phrase’s opening gesture both an inversion and a filling-out of the opening gesture of the second melodic phrase, albeit transposed to begin on the presumptive dominant.

In the first melodic phrase, the span from the highest to the lowest pitch encompasses a minor sixth. In the second melodic phrase, this span encompasses a minor seventh. Thus, although the length of the second melodic phrase and the time values of its pitches are smaller than the first, the melody has nonetheless widened in scope and, arguably, in expression. The span of a minor sixth returns in the third melodic phrase. Thus the melody, at least at the start exhibits tendencies of ebb and flow in intensification, quickly swelling in pathos and returning to relative stability thereafter -- if one may determine the pathos of a melody from the tessitura of a particular melodic phrase.


*Haupstimme: motif of primary significance in the work.


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