1. I come across that line when I read some author’s take on some philosopher, or some social theorist. “He formulated a theory as to this, HOWEVER he did not mean that. Thanks, buddy. Aw hell, it comes in handy sometimes (I hang my head in shame), but I don’t want to see that when I read about John Cage, or Morton Feldman.

  2. I wonder if this is coming from a different place. It’s not that the author fears that some sophomore is not going to understand, so then he writes the condescending sentence. Perhaps it’s because some twerpy know-it-all peer of his is going to henpeck him by saying something like, “You certainly are not implying that Hartmann is using traditional sonata form, because he’s not. No one uses traditional sonata form in the 20th century.” The author has gotten this shit so many times from twerpy peers that he’s just trying to cut it off at the get go.
    It’s like when you mark something forte that you know is only going to sound pianissimo because you want the forte attitude, and everybody who plays it says, “you know that you’re never going to hear this as forte.” So then you have to write the disclaimers in every piece.
    KG replies: Maybe, but that’s just changing the type of rudeness that’s being thrown at the unoffending reader. If clarifying information is deemed necessary (and it often is necessary), it can be stated in a neutral, factual way without insulting the reader’s intelligence:
    “As with Hartmann’s other mature works [saves five words right there and easier to read], the layout of the Horn Concerto is best understood against a background of formal conventions familiar from traditional classical music. The music is not in conventional sonata or rondo form, but key features of such forms appear just sufficiently to alert the listener to the ongoing play of near-repetitions….”
    Easier to read, clear, polite, active voice, more accurate (is “stereotype” the right word?), and as impervious to misreading as the written word can get. If people are determined to misread you, they will anyway. No point in pre-emptively sneering at the reader to prevent it. But to tell you the truth, I doubt there’s a motivation at all: just a bad habit imitated from other bad academic writing he’s read, a learned, would-be-impressive manner of over-punctiliousness.

  3. …just a bad habit imitated from other bad academic writing he’s read, a learned, would-be-impressive manner of over-punctiliousness.
    That’s what I think it is too. All too reflexive. Thanks for this — just linked to it on Twitter — and maybe there should be a bloglet just for citing and critiquing this kind of thing!
    KG replies: Hey, Bill. That would be a blast – but it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, and there’s too much material. As for the intended effect, I suspect most academics take too much professional pride in their unreadability to want to change.

  4. Honestly, I can’t see being offended by this in any situation. So the author is stating something that may not need stating, so what? Maybe you can argue that it’s bad writing but do you really take it so personally as to announce to the world that people who do this are being condescending pricks? Life is way too short to get your feathers ruffled by the writing habits of some random person out in the ether.
    KG replies: If I can convince just a few scholars to abandon this egregious cliché by showing them how they come off, it will have been well worth the small amount of trouble. You, I presume, find the world not worth improving.
    And by the way, I didn’t say that all those people are condescending pricks, I said that’s what my inner voice responds when I read a passage like that. Perhaps if you had to read as many academic books as I do, you, too, might finally start wishing that they could write better and not clog up the page with extraneous points.

  5. so-not a form.
    “This doesn’t imply that the music merely conforms to the outlines of, say, textbook sonata or rondo forms; its so-not a sonata in so-not a form.”
    PS: Captcha sucks (at least in my case, I can’t get it right 9/10 times!!)
    KG replies: Me neither (well, 3/4).
    Reminds me of the late Jonathan Kramer’s Notta Sonata, of which the first movement is “Notta First Movement,” and the second “Also Not a First Movement.”

  6. Well, “Sonata Form” itself is a construct after the fact. One might just as well say of the first movement of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony, or the Op. 95 String Quartet or any one of a number of other pieces that they’re best understood against a background…etc, etc. In fact in the case of those two particular pieces I think a good case could be made that the statement that the movement merely conforms to the outlines of text book sonata form (whatever that is) is a very true one.

  7. Search engines mean the offending author cannot be disguised.
    Of course this means that I am insulting the readers in the same way as (s)he does 🙁
    KG replies: Possibly, but I actually Googled a couple of phrases and didn’t come up with anything.

  8. Well I chose a long phrase. The composer’s name ends with g.
    KG replies: Sounds close enough.

  9. For what its worth, I attended a professor/student ensemble performance at one of the local music schools here in the Boston area, and the professor introduced one of the Beethoven piano trios (I forget now which one)by chiding Beethoven for not strictly following sonata form and that he’d get a poor grade if he’d get if he turned this in in her class. What chance would composer ending in g have?