[Smt-talk] prolongation

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Sun Jul 17 14:18:14 PDT 2011

Le 17/07/2011 20:54, Eytan Agmon a écrit :
> Nicolas,
> Are we really going to play the game of a close reading of Schenker? 
> (I played the game once, in an /MTO /article entitled “The Bridges 
> that Never Were.”)
For sure, I am engaged at present in a close reading of Schenker, and I 
am very pleased with the game. My intention is to find out how his ideas 
evolved and eventually produced /Free Composition./ Because /Free 
Composition /probably was translated without the possibility of a direct 
comparison with earlier writings, it may not always reflect Schenker's 
thought. I do not mean that Oster had insufficient knowledge of earlier 
writings, merely that, unable to directly confront /Freie Satz/ with 
other texts that probably were not easily available during his 
translation, he was not always able (and may not always have had the 
desire) to reflect Schenker's ideas in their historical context. Salzer, 
similarly, preferred writing /Structural Hearing/ to commenting /Freie 
Satz /(adding a few concepts of his own which I consider most 
interesting, but which may not be fully compatible with Schenker's own 
     "Tonal space" certainly is a case in point. It is an idea that 
Schenker first published in /Tonwille /VIII-IX (1924) and that he 
repeated until /Das Meisterwerk /II (1926). It must have helped him 
tremendously in developing the final concept of /Ursatz/, first 
described in 1930 [it may be significant, in addition, to note that he 
published nothing between 1926 and 1930]. A few paragraphs about tonal 
space did survive in /Free Composition/, mainly § 13 (but also §§ 25 and 
several others). However, a most striking difference between /Free 
Composition /and /Erläuterungen /which I quoted in previous postings is 
that in 1935 Schenker indentifies the tonal space with the /Urlinie/, 
while in 1924 he linked it with the concept of chord. In the meanwhile, 
the concept of /Urlinie /itself was deeply modified: up to 1926, the 
/Urlinie/ merely was a line, a "fluent melody" (/fliessender Gesang/) 
[this may have aspects in common with your "efficient" voice leading; 
the idea may have originated in Fux or earlier], ascending or 
descending, that directed the musical flow. From 1930, the /Urlinie /was 
a single abstract descending line expressing the tonal space. Other 
basic concepts (among the most complex ones, such as /Quintteiler/ or 
/Übergreifen/) were involved in the development of the /Ursatz/ theory.
     Having shortly browsed through your "Bridges that Never Were" 
(which I'll reread with attention), I think that your approach is that 
of a theoretician, when mine is that of a historian. I have no judgment 
to make about whether the bridges are or were, I am only interested in 
that Schenker thought they were or, better still, in how he conceived 
them. Whether they exist "truly", or whether any logical truth is 
involved in this, is not of my concern.
> Surely the statement “there are no other tonal spaces than those of 
> 1–3, 3–5, and 5–8,” which of course cannot be taken literally (due to 
> such “tonal spaces” as 2-1-7, 4-3-2, etc.), essentially equates “tonal 
> space” with “diatonic system.”
In Schenkerian terms, the statement that "there are no other tonal 
spaces than those of 1–3, 3–5, and 5–8" merely means that if 2-1-7, 
4-3-2, etc. appear to constitute tonal spaces, it must be within an 
embedded space, say, that of the dominant chord, in which the apparent 
2-1-7 (of the higher level space) becomes 5-4-3, and 4-3-2 becomes 
(8)-7-6-5. (I purposely leave open here the matter of the tonal space of 
a 7th chord: that is a matter for Yosef Goldenberg; Schenker obviously 
did not fully make up his view on this point.)
     I repeat what I said before, that Schenker probably would have 
admitted 3-5 to be filled by 3-#4-5, or 8-7-6-5 by 8-b7-6-5, etc., which 
contradicts the equation of "tonal space" with "diatonic scale" (I think 
that "system", in this context, is a much too heavily loaded term).
> That Schenker (apparently) wants us to believe that his /Urlinie/ is 
> conceptually prior to the diatonic system is one of his many conceits.
As hinted to above, Schenker changed his mind about the role of the 
/Urlinie/. Your statement may be true of the final version of the 
concept, the abstract "fundamental line" of the /Urstaz /theory of the 
1930's, where indeed he presents the /Urlinie/ as the source of the 
/Diatonie/. It is much less true of his earlier idea of the 
/Urlinie/(/n/), the "line(s) or origin" (he does at time use the term in 
plural). Again, I find this evolution in his thought utmost interesting. 
Some would take argument of these changes to reject the whole as 
nonsense. I am not really concerned with value judgments, but I might be 
willing to admit that the final version in /Freie Satz/ may not be the 
most interesting one.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne
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