Analysing Musical Time, Dr Anne Hyland


The complex relationship between music and time has fascinated people for generations. Music not only exists in and through time, but it also has the capacity to shape, expand, even distort or destroy time. It does this through a combination of diverse rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, and formal means within the composition, and the performance choices made by the player.

This video explores how music analysis can help us understand the ways by which music effects our perception of time. It provides an in-depth analysis of a section of music from the first movement of Schubert’s G-major Quartet, D887 (1826), a piece which many scholars believe plays on the listener’s perception of the passing of time by being retrospective, or recollective, in nature. The analysis demonstrates that the unique temporal perspective of the movement is created via recognisable formal and harmonic devices, thus illuminating their close interaction. By uncovering the precise mechanisms shaping musical time in this work, this video demonstrates that without music analysis, we cannot fully appreciate what is most fascinating about how this music manipulates time.


Music Examples

Example 1: Schubert, D887/i, Exposition, Second Group, Formal Functions

Example 2: Schubert, D887/i, Exposition, Second Group, Stratified Presentation


Scores and Recordings

Score download: Petrucci, Schubert String Quartet No. 15, D 887

Recommended recording: ‘String Quartet in G major, D887′, Melos Quartet, Schubert: String Quartets, CD 6 (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999).

Recording and score: IMSLP, Schubert String Quartet No. 15, D 887


Suggested Reading

Adorno, Theodor W. 2005 [1928]. ‘Schubert’, Jonathan Dunsby and Beatte Perrey trans., 19th-Century Music, 29/i: 3–14.

Burnham, Scott. 2000. ‘Schubert and the Sound of Memory’, The Musical Quarterly, 84/iv: 655–63.

__________. 2005. ‘Landscape as Music, Landscape as Truth: Schubert and the Burden of Repetition’, 19th-Century Music, 29/i: 31–40.

Burstein, L. Poundie. 1997. ‘Lyricism, Structure, and Gender in Schubert’s G-major String Quartet’, The Musical Quarterly, 81/i: 51–63.

Caplin, William E. 1998. Classical Form: a Theory of Formal Functions for the instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clark, Suzannah. 2011. Analyzing Schubert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dahlhaus, Carl. 1986 [original German publication 1978]. ‘Sonata Form in Schubert: The First Movement of the G-major String Quartet, Op.161 (d887)’. In Schubert: Critical and Analytical Studies, trans. Thilo Reinhard and ed. Walter Frisch (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press): 1–12.

Frisch, Walter. 2000. ‘“You Must Remember This”: Memory and Structure in Schubert’s String Quartet in G Major, d887’, The Musical Quarterly, 84/iv: 582–603.

Hyland, Anne M. 2009. 2013. ‘The Tightened Bow: Analysing the Juxtaposition of Drama and Lyrical Time in Schubert’s Paratactic Sonata-Form Movements’. In Irish Musical Studies vol. 11, ed. Julian Horton and Gareth Cox. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

__________. 2016. ‘In Search of Liberated Time, or Schubert’s Quartet in G major: Once more between sonata and variation’, Music Theory Spectrum, 38/i.

Mak, Su Yin. 2004. ‘Structure, Design, and Rhetoric: Schubert’s Lyricism Reconsidered’. PhD dissertation, Eastman School of Music.

Salzer, Felix. 1928. ‘Die Sonatenform bei Schubert’, Studien zur Musikwissenschaft, 15: 86–125.

Shamgar, Beth, 2001. ‘Schubert’s Classic Legacy: some thoughts on exposition-recap form’, Journal of Musicology, 18/i: 150-69.

Schmalfeldt, Janet. 2011. In the Process of Becoming: Analytical and Philosophical Perspectives on Form in Early Nineteenth-Century Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schnebel, Dieter. 1972. ‘Schubert: Auf der Suche nach der befreiten Zeit’, Denkbare Musik, Schriften 1952–1972, ed. Hans Rudolf Zeller: 116–29. Schauberg, Köln: M. DuMont.

Truscott, Harold. 1959. ‘Schubert’s String Quartet in G’, The Music Review, 20: 119–45.

Webster, James. 1978. ‘Schubert’s Sonata Forms and Brahms’s First Maturity’, 19th-Century Music, 2/i: 18–35.