[Smt-talk] Stravinsky, sonorities, and nomenclature

Rebecca Hyams rebecca.hyams at gmail.com
Mon Feb 16 11:12:29 PST 2009

    Currently, I'm in the process of working on my MA thesis, where I'm 
looking at Stravinsky's alteration of his sources in Pulcinella. As I'm 
working, my biggest challenge is dealing with harmonies and what to call 
them. I wanted to pose my conundrum to the theory community, and though 
I realize that no single solution is perfect, I want to see what other 
ideas are out there (or if perhaps there's a way to reconcile a method 
I'm already familiar with with the realities of the music).
    My first instinct was to call them by set class, but that has its 
limitations as well as connotations that are not necessarily applicable 
to this musical context. I know there's also an approach that attempts 
to place non-triadic sonorities into an altered triadic context. While I 
agree that there's some instances of altered triads throughout the work 
(after all, the source materials are clearly common practice) there's 
sections where the majority of material is added by Stravinsky. Some of 
those sonorities, while they clearly have some sort of root, cannot be 
explained by identifying them as some sort of triad, in part because of 
the functional implications triads have from tonal music. Of course then 
while set theory can provide a name for the sonority and a method of 
relating it to other similar sonorities, it doesn't easily lend itself 
to the centric-nature of the sonorities in question. I know there must 
be some sort of middle ground or other approach that I have yet to be 
exposed to.
    (I have a specific section in the music that I've been milling over 
that started a whole conversation between myself and my thesis advisor. 
I would be happy to share that except of the score with anyone willing 
to take a look at it.)

Thank you,
Rebecca Hyams
MA student in music theory
Queens College- CUNY
rebecca.hyams at gmail.com

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list