Saturday midday, November 14, 1–1:50 CST

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(Re)defining Drama

William Marvin (Eastman School of Music), Chair

Loosening the “Shackles” of Sonata Form: Intersections of Formal, Tonal, and Operatic Drama in Fidelio

Benjamin Graf (University of North Texas)

Graham Hunt (University of Texas at Arlington)


Recently described as “the first ‘mind-splitting’ opera in the canon,” Beethoven’s Fidelio is a tour de force of intertwined plot lines, heroism, romance, and politics (Dean 1996).  Indeed, the underlying dramatic plan of the opera is inextricably linked to the form and structure of its musical processes. This analysis illuminates striking connections to the dramaturgy by exploring formal-tonal relationships that extant scholarship has addressed in a limited capacity: “...a background awareness of sonata…can add interesting dimensions to one’s appreciation of features [in Fidelio] that seem to underscore dramatic points precisely by evading or subverting sonata-form norms” (Tusa 1996).  This research adds a new dimension to the discourse by engaging recent theories of aria-sonata forms—most notably Martin (2016b) and Hunt (2017).  Furthermore, the analysis explores salient intersections of form and tonal structure, particularly motivic connections to Pizarro’s murder plot and Leonore’s romantic-heroic rescue plan.  

The Dramatic Potential of Auxiliary Cadences in Cole Porter Songs with Minor-to-Major Choruses

Morgan Markel (Eastman School of Music)


In the Great American Songbook, sectional verse-chorus and simple chorus songs with choruses in the minor mode are far less common than those in major. Even rarer are choruses that move from minor to the relative major. Yet, Cole Porter wrote seven well-known solo numbers with this harmonic schema for seven different musicals that premiered during the height of his Broadway career between 1929 and 1954. In this paper, I interpret these songs as featuring large-scale auxiliary cadences that span the entire song form. Through analyses of individual songs, such as “So In Love” from Kiss me, Kate (1948) and “Get Out Of Town” from Leave it to Me! (1938), I demonstrate how the auxiliary cadences in these songs interact with form, motives, and lyrics to create dynamic narratives in which musical and lyrical resolution is reserved until the conclusion of each song. Moreover, I offer some closely-related voice-leading prototypes to summarize the similar harmonic and contrapuntal motion exhibited in these songs: in each prototype, the verse prolongs the major submediant (VI), and the beginning of the chorus prolongs the minor submediant (vi) before eventually moving to and confirming the tonic Stufe (I). Together, my analyses and prototypes build and expand upon the work of Berry (1999), Buchler (2016 and 2018), Forte (1993 and 1995), Gilbert (1995), and Shaftel (1999 and 2016), who have used Schenkerian analysis as a means to explore voice leading, counterpoint, and motives in individual songs in the Great American Songbook.

Discovering Dramaturgy in the Music of Sofia Gubaidulina via Valentina Kholopova’s System of Expression Parameters

Sasha Drozzina (Toronto, Ontario)

Sasha Drozzina received her PhD in Music Theory, along with a minor in Musicology, at Louisiana State University in May 2020. Sasha’s dissertation is entitled “Schnittke, Gubaidulina, and Pärt: Religion and Spirituality during the Late Thaw and Early Perestroika,” in which she contextualizes selected works within the 1970s and 1980s in the late Soviet Union, and discusses the unique religious and spiritual nuances and compositional techniques within each piece. Recent research presentations include papers on Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina at the Canadian University Music Society Conferences in 2018 and 2019. Sasha’s current research is centered around intersections of contemporary Russian music and politics.


Valentina Khopolova (b. 1935) is a prominent Russian music theorist working at the Moscow Lomonosov State University, primarily focusing on twentieth-century classical music. Her work remains overlooked in Western music academic scholarship, while the research of her brother, Yuri Kholopov (1931–2003), is cited profusely (Ewell 2012; Cairns 2014; Segall 2017).

This paper shows how Kholopova developed a powerful system of “expression parameters,” or EPs for the music of Sofia Gubaidulina, and my own application of the system to Gubaidulina’s repertoire of the 1980s. For Kholopova, the EPs are elements of musical composition expressing drama; they are thematic and primary, and can range from methods of articulation, dynamics, register, etc. Each EP has either a consonant or dissonant value. Ewell (2014) applied the system to Gubaidulina’s Ten Preludes for Solo Cello (1974). I focus on the important but previously disregarded factors that in each given work the pairings are initially neutral; dissonance is never viewed as “negative”; and the binaries work in tandem. I demonstrate how Kholopova’s system especially enriches the understanding of Gubaidulina’s multi-movement works of religious nature for several instruments, such as Rejoice! Sonata for Violin and Cello (1981) and Sieben Worte (1985). Sieben Worte largely explores timbral properties and therefore the set of EPs is selected based on the prominence of harmonic coloring throughout. Kholopova’s mode of analysis retains the dramaturgical meaning, which is at the forefront of the majority of Gubaidulina’s pieces, born out of the dialogue between the pairings and their gradual synthesis.