Musicians can choose between various “historicist” or “presentist” ways of performing works from the past. Music scholars who study early music sometimes are forced to make similar choices. If one thinks of corpus studies in music as an objective form of counting the “elements of music,” the question of what constitutes an “element” can involve similar historicist/presentist dilemmas. The article examines three historically significant characteristics of European art music—three historicist features—that are not always recognized in presentist corpus studies. For an illustrative example, a comparison is made between how the cadenza doppia in a Bach toccata for organ might be represented in a corpus study as either a two-voice framework or a series of Roman numerals in the tradition of Allen McHose (1947). Because that type of cadence was a commonplace in Bach’s time and in Bach’s compositions, a corpus analysis should be able to detect its multiple occurrences as a core element of the music.

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