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Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Music (M.M.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Current and historical methods of metric analysis often assume that the first beat of a metric group is stronger than the second. This, however, is not the case in all repertoires. For example, a study by William Rothstein (2011) demonstrates that Verdi’s midcentury operas often place emphasis on even-numbered beats. This paper shows this metric trend to be even more prevalent in a corpus of 208 nineteenth-century operatic excerpts, (1809-1859).

I present a formal model that classifies phrases according to anacrusis length and prosodic accent, showing where large-scale metric accents fall within a phrase. This model produces three metric types which align with Rosthstein’s (2011) previous work. Compositional and historical features (e.g., language, premiere date, librettist, etc.) were tracked alongside type in order to determine whether preferences for certain metric forms were more prevalent in certain contexts. This indeed was the case. For instance, use of even-emphasis meter increases over time, even though odd-emphasis meter remains most common. Individual composers also show a significantly distinguishable preference toward each type of meter. These results not only confirm that the highest concentration of even-emphasis meter occurs in Verdi’s midcentury operas (Rothstein 2011), but that Verdi is the primary user of this type overall. I also demonstrate that language and composer nationality do not significantly affect an excerpt's metric type; only Verdi shows distinction in these areas. With this finding, I argue against using nationalist language to identify metric types and instead propose suggestions that better-reflect an updated understanding of nineteenth-century metric conventions.


First Advisor

Christopher Wm. White

Second Advisor

Brent Auerbach

Third Advisor

Gary S. Karpinski

Included in

Music Theory Commons