Music Theory

The Stratification of Musical Rhythm

There are many books on counterpoint and harmony, but few indeed on the theory of rhythm. Those few approach it through its graphic notation, or in terms of metrical feet, as if it were poetry. In this landmark theory book, Maury Yeston treats rhythm instead in the context of sounded music, with a view to clarifying its ambiguous and little studied, but crucial, relationship with pitch. Although his work is strongly influenced by the methods of the German theorist Heinrich Schenker, it is a strikingly original contribution to musical theory in its own right.

Yeston begins by developing analytic procedures for understanding the rhythm of tonal music in terms of pitch levels. He then focuses on certain structures that arise from the interaction of these levels, thereby discovering some fundamental aspects of logical form in the system of musical rhythm. In the course of the inquiry, Mr. Yeston redefines traditional notions of meter, syncopation, and accent. In addition, his study provides a basis for understanding the relationships by which unique rhythmic designs are integrated aesthetically in a cohesive musical composition. (Yale University Press)

“Yeston’s The Stratification of Musical Rhythm is a study of ways in which rhythmic strata within compositions interact to produce rhythmic structures. A rhythmic stratum is akin to a Schenkerian level, and indeed for the most part, Yeston derives rhythmic strata in terms of pitch levels rationalized according to Schenkerian principles. Consequently, the examination of rhythmic structures focuses on triadic tonal music. A central issue of the book is meter, particularly the presentation of a logical basis for asserting its existence in a composition. To do this, Yeston outlines a three-stage analytic methodology which starts from the musical surface and then moves into middleground levels for the purpose of defining patterns of accentuation in interaction with the foreground. An outgrowth of Yeston’s view of metric structures is a theory of rhythmic relationships based on inclusion (in the sense of pitch set inclusion) that presents a number of insights into musical pattern structure.” — Gary E. Wittlich

“Since the death of Heinrich Schenker in 1935, interest in his method of musical analysis has steadily grown. Today he is widely recognized as the most important music theorist of the 20th century. Yet no full introduction to his system exists in English. The articles in this collection appeared in the Journal of Music Theory over a period of 17 years. Together they constitute a comprehensive exposition of Schenkerian theory & analysis. There are numerous musical examples throughout the book.
(Yale University Press, 1977)


The Stratification of Musical Rhythm

Hardcover — Published by Yale University Press (February 28, 1976)

Readings in Schenker Analysis and Other Approaches

Hardcover – January 1, 1977