Meeting 6. Phrase Rhythm: Phrase Expansion

Review of phrase connections and hypermetrical irregularities

Based on Rothstein, Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music, chapter 2

Both phrase overlap and metrical reinterpretation have to do with a contraction of musical material.  Something new begins early.

In phrase overlap, the final element of a phrase is also the first element of the next.

In metrical reinterpretation, an expected weak (hyper)beat is reinterpreted as a strong (hyper)beat.

Metrical reinterpretation occurs, it seems, only in conjunction with a phrase overlap.  Phrase overlap can occur without metrical reinterpretation.

Examples from Rothstein:

Example 2.20. Beethoven, Piano Sonata in C Major, Op. 2, No. 3, first movement, mm. 1-13.

 Discussion of Phrase Connections in Beethoven Excerpt

Example 2.30. Mozart, Quintet in C Major, K. 515, first movement, mm. 1-24.

 Discussion of Hypermetrical Anomalies in Mozart Excerpt

Example 2.18. Verdi, “De’ miei bollenti spiriti,” from La Traviata.

 Discussion of Meter in Verdi Excerpt



Phrase Expansions

Phrase expansions fall into three categories: prefixes, internal expansions, and suffixes.

 Phrase Expansions


External Expansions: Prefixes and Suffixes

Extra material is added before or after the body of a phrase.


A prefix often establishes an accompanimental pattern that becomes the backdrop for the melody of the phrase that follows.

Large-scale prefix: introduction


A suffix follows a cadence.  It often sustains the goal of the preceding phrase or reinforces the closure at the end of the preceding phrase by repeating the cadence, its harmonic motion, melodic motion, or both.

Large-scale suffix: coda


 Lennon and McCartney, “Michelle”

Internal Expansions

Extra material is added within the body of the phrase.


Echo repetition—immediate, usually quieter repetition of a portion of a phrase.  The repetition may also be in a new register; it may occur in a new instrument or voice.

Sequential repetition—immediate repetition(s) at a new pitch level within the same instrument or voice.

Composed-out ritardando or composed-out fermata—The music slows down because note values increase in length, thus creating the effect of a ritardando or fermata, no matter whether a ritardando or fermata is indicated in the score.

Evaded or delayed cadence—An unstable chord replaced an expected stable authentic cadence, thus delaying the arrival of an authentic cadence.

Parenthetical insertion—contrasting material invades the phrase, and its boundaries are marked by significant discontinuities (of voice leading, texture, rhythm, etc.)

(Echo repetitions do not qualify because the material inserted is not foreign, but is a repetition of material that is part of the basic phrase.)



 Brahms, A Major Violin Sonata, first movement


Echo repetition in in Brahms’s A major violin sonata, op. 100, the first movement, mm. 5 and 15: