ABSTRACT

Tonality is often assumed to be the natural modality of music, sonata form the natural expression of tonality. Why should this be so? Why is sonata form second nature for so many of us? On the face of it, it is not so hard to see why sonata form appears to be an innate expression of tonality: the form, as we like to understand it, makes a central issue of resolution and of return, just as tonal harmony does. In dramatising the return from dominant to tonic (so often conceptualised as the ‘chord of nature’), sonata form performs not just a return but a return to nature, in the same way that the dominant–tonic cadence does. This is a broadly resonant scenario, and hard to resist – sonata form brings us home, and who among us does not long for some sense of home?