This article offers a new view of Robert Gjerdingen’s galant schemata by examining underlying principles for the generation of the skeletal contrapuntal strings that may be considered their central feature. It discusses the challenges of subjectivity and circularity in finding and defining patterns and suggests that deriving the schemata from underlying principles may be a step toward validating them. Further, it highlights the significance of invertible counterpoint and explores the relations between the schemata’s soprano skeletons and the Rule of the Octave, which is presumably a learned model or historical schema. When galant schemata are reconstructed as responses to input from the Rule of the Octave, top-down constraints are revealed. These constraints limit the choice of local soprano strings, relating the schemata to aspects of formal function. The article also speculates on connections between schematic skeletons and statistical learning research. Finally, it offers an analytical application to the opening phrase of Mozart’s aria “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön,” which is briefly compared to Niccolò Piccinni’s “Una povera ragazza.”
Gjerdingen’s Schemata Reexamined
Gilad Rabinovitch is assistant professor of music theory at Georgia State University. He has presented at the Society for Music Theory’s annual meeting and the European Music Analysis Conference and at such institutions as Cornell University and the University of Michigan. He has published in Music Theory Online.