Of beginnings and ends a corpus-based inquiry into the rise of the recapitulation

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This article investigates the sources of the recapitulation using statistical methods. The recapitulation has traditionally been viewed as an expansion of small ternary forms, resulting in a top-down approach, whereby the repeat of expositional material is explained in rotational terms. Here I present a bottom-up approach, demonstrating that the recapitulation arose as a concatenation between two previously independent practices: the double return of the opening theme in the tonic in the middle of the second half of a two-part form, and the thematic matching between the ends of the two halves of two-part form. Drawing on a corpus of more than seven hundred instrumental works dated 1650-1770, I demonstrate that these two practices arose and functioned independently from each other, increasing in frequency and in length, before being subsumed into an overarching rotational practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-200
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Music Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by Yale University.


  • Big data
  • Double return
  • End-rhyme
  • Recapitulation
  • Sonata form


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