Saturday, February 21, 2004

Automotive Sonata in H Major

I saw an ad for the 2004 Hyundai Sonata the other day. At first glance, it appears to be a fairly standard machine, but further inspection shows that it is really a highly unusual interpretation of a classic form.

While maintaining the three parts of the standard Sonata form, Hyundai's new model displays a very peculiar distribution of material throughout these parts. The exposition shows considerable folk music influence, being based on an astounding number of hornpipes. (It is advertised as "138 hp" but I have not attempted to identify each tune.) Though this is supposedly the driving force behind the Sonata, it is entirely absent from the development. Described as "roomy," this middle section contains a much lower density of material. However, it introduces an interesting new harmonic component with a chord progression notated AM/FM/CD, which I interpret to mean A major - F major - C diminished. The recapitulation is brief, and even sparser than the development. In fact, it can hardly even be said to be a recapitulation of anything. The majority of it has been left un-scored, perhaps indicating that the space should be filled in an improvisational manner by the performer. These peculiarities of form hardly seem to justify the title of Sonata applied to this vehicle, even allowing for large amounts of innovation.

Among the work's strong points, however, is the five-speed transmission, which indicates that it supports a wide range of tempos. This is comparable to much of Bach's work, such as "Ach, mein Sinn" from St. John's Passion, which has been recorded by various artists at tempos ranging from 77 to 115 beats per minute.

At $15,999 the cost of this Sonata may be prohibitive for some musicians, who may be more accustomed to paying $15-$30 for a book containing a large number of well-known compositions. However, it is far more affordable than some original manuscripts, which have been known to sell for as much as $2 million. The 5-10 year warranty should also be taken into account, though, and compared with the work of Beethoven and other masters of the past, which can safely be guaranteed for generations.

No comments: