Interrelation between elementary cognitive schemata and melodic surface in Mozart’s music

Paper to be presented at the annual meeting of the Israel Musicological Society in Raanana, July 3–4

A widespread view in recent research on 18th century music is that the melodic surface of a given composition results from combining and elaborating on a number of elementary cognitive schemata, assimilated by composers of the period during early stages of their career. A possible implication of this approach is that melodic events at the foreground level should be considered variable and open for modifications. This stance is taken up by a current approach in musical interpretation, promoting improvisation on the basis of the original text. My research into the correlation between key choice and musical structure in Mozart’s music supports a contrary view. Apparently, Mozart would perceive two melodic formulations as equivalent (and, consequently, tend to use them in connection with the same key) on the basis of literal resemblance at the surface level and not due to the implementation of common deep-level schemata. This, in turn, invites a closer examination of the concept of “decorability” and of the conditions under which melodic formulations in Mozart’s music permit or prohibit modifications.

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