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Studio B • Saturday morning, 9:00–12:00

Harmony and Voice Leading in Ninteenth Century Music

Frank Samarotto (Indiana University), Chair

Loretta Terrigno (The Julliard School)

Emergent Modality: Minor-to-Major Progressions as “Tragic-to-Transcendent” Narratives in Brahms's Lieder

Ellen Bakulina (University of North Texas)

Linear-Analytical Elements in Leo Mazel’s Work: Revisiting Chopin’s Fantasy, op. 49

Justin Lavacek and Timothy Jackson (University of North Texas)

bIV in Theory and Chopin

Alexander Martin (The Graduate Center, CUNY)

Sunken IIs and Inwardness: Correspondences Between Voice-Leading and Moments of Introspection in Three Pieces by Robert Schumann

Abstracts

Emergent Modality: Minor-to-Major Progressions as “Tragic-to-Transcendent” Narratives in Brahms's Lieder

Loretta Terrigno (The Julliard School)

Brahms’s songs “Schwermut” (op. 58, no. 5), “Dämmrung senkte sich von oben” (op. 59, no. 1), and “Todessehnen” (op. 86, no. 6) use minor-to-major progressions to portray poetic oppositions between earthly struggle and transcendent death, as well as temporalities that are latent in the poem. A cadential six-four chord (Robert Hatten’s “arrival six-four chord”; 1994) at the structural cadence in each song confirms the major mode and depicts achieved future transcendence. In preparing the emergent major tonic, each song prolongs VI or IV, dramatizing the transformation of scale degrees 3 and 6 into their major-mode counterparts as the protagonist envisions the future.

This claim extends studies by Heather Platt (1992) and Lauri Suurpää (2001), which explore how Brahms’s songs that imply transcendent death progress from a minor key to a cadential six-four chord in the parallel major. Platt and Suurpää show that “Mit vierzig Jahren” (op. 94, no. 1) prolongs a Neapolitan harmony, while “Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer” (op. 105, no. 2) uses a chromaticized I5−6 As I will show, “Schwermut” prolongs C-flat major (VI) to portray present melancholy (E-flat minor) yielding to desired future catharsis (E-flat major), while “Dämmrung senkte sich von oben” passes through prolongations of E-flat major (VI) and C major (IV) as the moon—a symbol of future enlightenment—transforms darkness (G minor) into light (G major). “Todessehnen” prolongs D minor (VI) to convey the transformative catalyst of Christ’s love, which enables the protagonist’s escape from earthly burdens (F-sharp minor) into transcendent death (F-sharp major).

Linear-Analytical Elements in Leo Mazel’s Work: Revisiting Chopin’s Fantasy, op. 49

Ellen Bakulina (University of North Texas)

The Russian music-theoretical tradition is generally perceived as decidedly non-Schenkerian. This is generally true; however, ideas similar to Schenker’s have appeared in Russian-language scholarship. In this paper, I show elements of linear thinking in several of Leo Mazel’s writings on Chopin, with a special focus on his monograph (1937) on Chopin’s Fantasy, op. 49. My principal objectives are (1) to draw parallels between Mazel’s and Schenker’s work, and (2) to build an original Schenkerian reading of the Fantasy, a reading informed by Mazel’s quasi-prolongational insights.

Several elements in Mazel’s work have direct relevance to Schenkerian theory. First, Mazel explains mm. 1–2 of the Fantasy as projecting a perfect fourth on two levels. Second, his harmonic reductions essentially represent what Schenkerians call imaginary continuo. This is also relevant to his article (1965) on Chopin’s A-major prelude from op. 28. The third and most intriguing linear element is Mazel’s analysis of the Fantasy’s Lento passage. This analysis, which I “translate” into standard Schenkerian notation, amounts to a prolongational idea, while also suggesting motivic parallelism among descending seconds. I finish by incorporating this idea into my own, strictly Schenkerian reading of the work. This reading is also partly (mostly at the deepest level) based on Carl Schachter’s analysis of the same piece. My reading thus synthesizes ideas from Russian- and English-language analytical traditions; it also takes linear elements, implicit in Mazel’s work, to a level of structural complexity offered by Schenker’s theories.

bIV in Theory and Chopin

Justin Lavacek and Timothy Jackson (University of North Texas)

As chromaticism expanded in the long nineteenth century, composers sometimes relied upon the expedient of enharmonic spelling at the cost of indicating true chord function. In this foundational study of the rare case of bIV, we focus on those examples where the voice leading suggests that we accept such striking chromaticism at the composer’s word. From our analyses of bIV usage, we have derived three voice leading paradigms and will present examples ranging from local surface progressions to the deepest layer of harmonic organization.  They are: 1) I- bIV-V-I, 2) I-IV- bIV-I6, and 3) bIV as the upper third of bII.  Chopin was a pioneer of all of these usages, often conjuring up bIV in relationship with the more common lowerings, bII and bVI, an interdependent family of expressive inflections.

The larger conclusion we draw is that some chromaticism cannot be reduced to a diatonic background, but is indeed structurally chromatic. This view of irreducible chromaticism resonates with, rather than represses, the expanded expressive spectrum achieved in the Romantic period. It is offered as an amendment to Schenker’s claim, still reaffirmed by prominent followers, that only diatonic tones can be found at the deepest structural level. We contend that the permeation of chromaticism like bIV deep into tonal grammar was integral to the naturally expanding life of the tone and not merely colorful surface adornment.

Sunken IIs and Inwardness: Correspondences Between Voice-Leading and Moments of Introspection in Three Pieces by Robert Schumann

Alexander Martin (The Graduate Center, CUNY)

This paper investigates the hermeneutical implications of passages where major V is followed, and prolonged, by minor II. The seeming breach of tonal syntax creates a perceived ebb in tonal flow and gives the impression that V has somehow turned inward. By analogy to origami, I call this family of V prolongations a dominant sink fold; the Oberquintteiler here is a II, or sunken II chord. Because of their special voice-leading properties and inward affect, IIs possess unique potential for creating text-music correspondences. I will examine the role of IIs in three works by Robert Schumann, where they are meaningfully coordinated with moments of introspection and heightened subjectivity.

In “Der Nussbaum,” Mosen’s poetry concerns blossoms coquettishly gossiping about a young maiden’s impending marriage, but the focus shifts to the maiden’s inner world and sexual naiveté in stanza 4. Schumann’s G-major setting (op. 25/3) renders this stanza in A minor qua II at the middleground level. Similarly, in “Berg’ und Burgen” (Heine), the objective river scenery recedes before the subjective heartbreak of the poem’s protagonist. In Schumann’s op. 24/7, the climactic line Birgt sein Innres Tod und Nacht (conceals [the river’s] inner Death and Night) brings the music to a II: PAC that functions as II, elaborating a fourth-progression within the structural dominant.

The appearance of II is especially provocative in Charakterstücke, where poetic content is adumbrated by title alone. In my final example, I will argue that a II lies at the expressive heart of Träumerei (op. 15/7).