Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. L. Poundie Burstein

Second Advisor

Dr. Michele Cabrini


In the third variation of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111, there is an abrupt shift in rhythms that almost resembles an excerpt of early jazz. This passage is so seemingly out of place that it appears to be an ironic commentary on the music that came before. This variation thereby raises an interesting question: how can irony play a role in music?

In an attempt to answer this question, this thesis examines the aesthetic property of irony, suggesting ways in which might be understood to impact three piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven: namely, his Piano Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3; Piano Sonata in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (“Moonlight”); and his Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111. The study begins by defining specific varieties of irony, and it then proposes strategies whereby these varieties of irony might express themselves in music. In its concluding chapter, it explores specific ways in which these strategies for musical irony are applied within these three piano pieces by Beethoven.

Included in

Music Theory Commons



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