Sonata Form and the Identity Narrative: Displaced Harmonic Events

Jason Patterson, University of North Texas and Collin County College

Heinrich Schenker asserted that the real agency of sonata form lies in harmonic motion and not thematic groups. In Free Composition he states, "the second theme, the subordinate theme, the lyrical theme, or the like ... are in every respect inadequate terms and concepts which afford no insight into sonata form." My own three-fold summary of sonata form is informed by the types of major harmonic events with which Schenker grappled: (1) the tonic is established; (2) an opposing harmony then emerges and challenges the tonic's hierarchical status; and (3) the tonic reestablishes its control. With the "identity metaphor," I supplement the conceptualization of sonata form with three identity-narrative events: identity schism, identity crisis, and identity reclamation. I explore the location of these events in two of Haydn's London Symphonies and Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony.