Music Perception, Vol. 7, No. 4 (1990) pp. 395-402.
A study of 32 piano sonatas by Beethoven reveals a significant asymmetry between increasing and decreasing dynamics. Specifically: (1) crescendos are more frequent than diminuendos, (2) crescendos tend to last longer than diminuendos, (3) large changes of dynamics tend to involve reductions in loudness, and (4) crescendos will more commonly follow low dynamic levels than will diminuendos follow high dynamic levels. These results support a "ramp archetype" of musical dynamics in which the music tends to build in a gradual way, but tends to subside relatively quickly. The results parallel a previous study showing an identical textural asymmetry in the evolution of polyphonic sonorities.