8 Honest sampling

Even if Schenker's argument for the derivation of the Ursatz from the harmonic series were coherent, it would fail to carry conviction because of its inconsistency with the real world of music, in which small integer ratios are not of the essence of consonance. However, much of Free Composition consists of Schenker's analyses of a multitude of examples from composers of the nineteenth and earlier centuries (Table 1). By implication, these examples are selected from “the masters”, those whom Schenker considers composers of true music. Unfortunately, no prescription, other than the analytical method itself, is given to determine whether a composer is a master. The introduction to Free Composition mentions J. S. Bach, C. P. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn. These are also strongly represented in the examples, though there Chopin comes in second place to Beethoven.

A second worrying characteristic of Free Composition is that the method of choosing the examples is not described, and though they appear copious at first sight, they represent only a small fraction of the works of the composers chosen: Beethoven is most generously represented, with 136 examples from approximately 520 movements which can be identified from the list of his works. [28] Brahms, who wrote nearly 600 movements, is represented by a mere 34 examples. Overall, with 20 composers, some even more copious than Brahms and Beethoven, represented by 533 examples, we are offered analyses of a small fraction of the work even of those, while of others, such as Telemann, Spohr, C. M. von Weber, Wagner and Liszt, surely worthy to stand beside C. P. E. Bach, Paganini or Josef Strauss, we are shown nothing. One is therefore left with the suspicion that movements have been selected for conformity with the thesis.

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