Listener expectations are a fundamental consideration in formal analysis, common to cognitive and hermeneutic approaches alike. Such approaches maintain that listeners use statistical regularities of musical style to predict where a piece of music is going and then assess what actually happens in terms of what they expected to happen. Although expectation is frequently invoked when considering very local phenomena (e.g., step-by-step progressions) or very global ones (e.g., the action spaces of a sonata), it has not played a systematic role in the analysis of basic theme types as formulated by William Caplin. This article proposes a framework for modeling expectation at the theme and phrase level. This is premised on the idea that conventional beginning-ending pairs condition listeners to expect certain endings when they hear certain beginnings. An expansion of Caplin’s categories is provided to classify such pairs. This reframing of phrase-structural analysis in predictive terms opens it up to the hermeneutic strategies of dialogic analysis, by allowing for the exploration of the rhetorical and expressive effects of failed predictions. This article further proposes a way to use corpus studies to identify theme types in later musical styles in which Caplin’s definitions do not necessarily apply. The utility of this approach is demonstrated in analyses of waltzes by Johann Strauss II.

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