Rondos I, III and V, Opus 3 by Jane Savage:
Motive Development and the Musical Narrative

by Nadine Burke



Savage develops the musical narrative for each of these rondos by taking material from the rondo theme and rhetorically altering it within the episodes. She uses a variety of techniques in her compositional process and changes the order of episodes to alter the function of the episodes to support the different musical narratives in each of the rondos. A motivic analysis on both a compositional and a theoretical level reveals the music narrative in all three rondos. Although I analyzed each rondo in detail in previous sections I will summarize the most noticeable differences in each of the musical narratives.

Savage generally adheres to the standard format of a rondo in Rondo III. She varies the rondo theme in a different way, using pitch and articulation variations. Then she creates a musical narrative developing unique but not distinct episodes that leads to a key change (C minor) in the second episode (C) and to a focus on the A-flat pitch in the third episode (D). Motives from the first episode (B) return to support the new melodic development in the third episode (D). In addition, Savage returns to the home key by way of sequences and uses a cadenza to conclude the third episode (D). The Schenkerian linear progression developed from the rondo theme forms the structure of the second episode (C). The most interesting variation of the rondo theme is the linear progression of the antecedent phrase of the rondo-theme in the third episode (D) hidden in mm. 41 to 46. The repeating theoretical motive supports the compositional elements expressed on the surface.


Rondo I reveals a musical narrative around the basic rondo motive and the neighbour note motive based on the submediant pitch "e". Savage mixes various rondo-thematic gestures in each of the distinct episodic periods. She varies the linear progression originally found in the rondo theme in the second episode (C). The third episode (D) ends with a transposed theoretical motive based on the rondo theme. The surface level relates with the structural level when the neighbour note motive from the rondo theme is incorporated into the linear progression that structures the coda.


Rondo V focuses on the realization of the rondo theme, repeating it in various forms in each of the episodes. Rondo-cadential gestures weave together with new gestures, creating a different narrative in the third episode (D), which functions as the developmental episode. When this musical narrative appears to conclude in the last episode, the coda returns to emphasize the return to home with the reiteration of the cadence. The passion for the rondo theme continues in the structural level: Schenkerian analysis reveals that this rondo is an exploration of the theoretical motive, expanding it in the episodes and finally contracting it in the coda.


In conclusion, Savage implements the principle of variation in the development of the episodes through motives which increases in greater degree as the composition progresses. We discover how she creates tension through a developmental narrative in each of the rondos. Departures from the standard format of the rondo form occur as a result of these narratives. The result is that this analysis of Savage's rondos confirms Saul Novack's edict that "a full comprehension of all the hierarchical levels - background, middleground(s), and forground - is required for an understanding of compositional processes."39


Does this comprehension include the cultural context? McClary helps me to determine the cultural perspectives that I use in analyzing these rondos. She reveals how the perception of fundamental "Truths" affects cultural perspective.40 She indicates that this experience of truth plays itself out in instrumental music through tonality and in specific genres such as the sonata and the symphony. For instance, she describes the use of tonality as a set of devices that signify reason. She describes the sonata as an "infusion of narrative impulses into the aristocratic binary-dance schema," which becomes the "most important bearer of hegemonic meaning, . . . [representing] the most privileged modes of cultural representation."41 In other words, the sonata, because of the aristocratic associations, receives privilege within the canon of art music. McClary has more to say. She bluntly claims that "tonality and sonata correspond to the foundational metaphors that have governed bourgeois thought and social life since the Enlightenment."42 She describes how this occurs in the symphony:

In movement after movement or over the course of an entire cycle, we witness the narrative formation of a musical self as it encounters obstacles, strengthens its own innate resources through motivic development, and finally achieves the secure identity that confirms the viability of the centered subject.43

As I read McClary's text, I cannot help but compare the rondo to this definition of a sonata. Although both are related to a dance form, sonatas are perceived to represent a significantly higher level of expertise. Yet I remember Ratner's comments about the function of a rondo, that it serves as a tool to explore rhetoric. I extend this to mean that what has been learned through this process will be applied in the composition of the sonata and symphony. At the same time, rondos are independent genres that can exhibit intricate detail. This detail leads me to ask questions about the portrayal of a musical identity. If sonata/symphony is a musical identity that filters from aristocratic to bourgeois life and if a sonata/symphony is a musical narrative of a secure (read masculine) self, then what is a rondo? As well, if this sonata/symphony embeds masculine musical codes in its narrative, what type of metaphors are found in a rondo? I speculate that the rondo genre is treated as a feminine construct because: the rondo theme exhibits a static character, one that does not strengthen its inner resources; the episodes are subsidiary developments. As described, feminine gender associations are reaffirmed if we analyze the rondo theme as the important feature, with episodes actions as digressions. Other interpretations reveal themselves. The rondo theme acts as a disruption to the narrative developed in the episodes. With these interpretations, I question the necessity to interpret associations that implicate one section as the main section and the other as subsidiary. A third interpretation equalizes the relationship with the rondo theme and the episode acting as interrelating dualities. This interpretation removes the concept of the masculine/feminine as opposites.


Is it possible to find and apply other cultural contexts to this analysis? If the musical codes of the sonata/symphony are superimposed onto the rondos, these musical narratives reflect a "masculine musical self" since the structure of the episodes does not follow the conventional pattern. The music narratives, as described in the episodes and the coda in all of Savage's rondos, increase in momentum, introducing and developing ideas with a closure in the home key. They also articulate three different scenarios. In Rondo III, the episodes exhibit unique characteristics with two exceptions: rondo-thematic comments interject in each of the episodes and in the coda; harmonic support from the first episode returns in the third episode. Although new material develops in each of the episodes in Rondo I, the presence of the rondo thematic material predominates, fused within each of the episodes. The presence of the rondo-thematic material increases in Rondo V to the point where no new material is introduced in the third episode and the coda. Savage creates organic and varied music narratives based on motivic development that unites the episodes and the rondo themes. As a result, I find myself asking the following question: if this approach is defined as a masculine musical self, does this mean that Savage adopted the dominant form of composition?


I prefer to remove the idea of genderized musical codes. Yet I suspect that our "Truths" are very much entrenched in our culture present and past. Even so, the different scenarios that these three rondos present decenter the notion of the episode as a subsidiary of the rondo theme. They also decenter the notion that the rondo theme is separate from the episodes. In addition, since these conclusions decenter the notion of implied dualities of dominance/subservience and masculine/feminine, they alter the embedded musical codes. Alternately, this analysis reinforces Ratner's notion that the rondo served as a tool to explore rhetoric and structure in the eighteenth century. In that respect Savage's rondos are identifiable as cultural reflections of the music-making practices of the eighteenth century.


Final Section: Endnotes



I thank William Renwick for his encouragement, for his tenacity in asking questions that needed to be solved, and for assistance with the Schenkerian analysis of these rondos. I also thank Deborah Hayes for her detailed criticisms and insightful recommendations. She is the Associate Professor of Music History at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Any mistakes that remain are mine.



Copyright 2001 by Nadine J-M. Burke