Sonata Form is perhaps the single most influential musical form in the history of classical music. It provided composers with a structural format for the extended development and exploration of musical ideas. The following will outline the principles of Sonata Form and then show how they can be applied to problem solving in general.
Sonata form has 4 sections:
1. Introduction or exposition
form starts with the introduction of
an attention grabbing musical idea, known as the 1st Subject. The opening theme of Beethoven’s 5th
Symphony (da da da dar) is perhaps the most well known example. After this
dramatic opening, a more subtle and lyrical theme (the 2nd Subject) is introduced.
(A good example is 'Alma’s Theme' from the first movement of
Mahler’s 6th "Tragic" Symphony.) As it is less dramatic, the 2nd Subject is
usually less immediately memorable than the 1st. It serves, however, to provide
an effective contrast with (and in some ways a commentary upon) the attention
grabbing opening. The initial statement of these two themes or subjects, technically called the exposition, constitutes the opening section of Sonata
Next, the above two themes (or subjects) are developed. They are
explored in many different ways. They are fragmented, twisted, reversed,
combined, played higher, played lower, and placed within contrasting musical
contexts and tone worlds (known as keys).
the development phase, the two opening themes return more or less
as originally heard but with subtle alterations. These alterations, together with
their positioning after the development, encourages the listener to hear the themes in
different ways: ways which offer additional insights and feelings. It is like
meeting an old friend after many years apart; you are the same individuals
but aged and matured, with additional experience and depth
of character. As a result, you can begin to perceive and respond to each other in
new and sometimes surprising ways.
4. End piece or coda
often than not, the Coda simply signals that a piece is coming to an end. In some works, however, it adds a significant last moment insight or
comment (rather like the postscript at the end of a letter). The end of
‘Metamorphosen’ (one of Richard Strauss's last works) provides such a moment with its statement of the theme from the slow, funereal movement
of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony. Strauss was coming to the end of what had been a
long, eventful and influential life. By including
this short quotation from "a funeral march for a hero", he seems to acknowledge the closeness of his own final ‘metamorphosis’.
Applying the principles of Sonata
Form to problem solving in general
balance between logic and creativity inherent within Sonata Form can be readily applied to problem solving in