Listen Up! - Thoughts on iPods, Sonata Form, and Analysis without Score

Brian Alegant

In a recent textbook Gary S. Karpinski summarizes two kinds of activities that have proven useful for developing listeners' skills in attending to form. One activity involves listening guidelines (or questions to be answered in prose); the other uses some kind of visual representation. Both have the potential to highlight features of a work that will become clearer through repeated listening. Karpinski makes three assertions about developing listening skills: first, that students should focus on the recurrence of motivic and thematic materials, textural changes, harmonic instability, and key areas; second, that students need to listen repeatedly; and third, that the skills gained through acquiring "intimacy with even only a handful of works" can be transferred to unfamiliar repertoire. This essay summarizes a pedagogical approach that uses iPods to teach students to analyze sonata forms without score. It discusses the advantages of iPods and outlines the organization of the course, paying particular attention to the learning outcomes and the roles played by graduated assignments. My primary aims are to stimulate thought about the topic of analysis without score, and to suggest that it is both possible and rewarding to teach this particular skill. The strategies I advocate resonate strongly with Karpinski's three assertions above, namely an emphasis on close readings of a handful of works in order to develop specific skills that can be generalized; the use of various kinds of visual representations (ranging from virtually blank scores to highly annotated ones); and an ideal device for repeated listening - the iPod.