[Smt-talk] Music theory on Wikipedia

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 18 12:57:29 PDT 2011

Dear Jack,
good point! Schoenberg's approach to this matter was different and closer to the real musical tradition, including the tradition of composition and theory of the 19th century.
The Y-X-Y is a strange notation of what should be T-S-D-T as a syntactic  main frame of a harmonic progression--surely, the main achievement of music theory of the past three centuries. 
The fact that one can hear the large Y above these three does not change the relationship within Y-X-Y. It is, in fact the i-m-t relationship, the initio-movere-terminus, which Boris Asafiev introduced in his seminal text Musical Form as a Process. The small-scale i-m-t can be taken as a whole by either I, or M, or T on a larger scale. There are many levels, from motive to the whole composition, on which this model works. I wrote about it in my article on Bobrovsky in Theoria, vol 16.
Thus, the first Y initiates the time for the inner motion in a progression. The X is responsible for the motion itself and it is directed at Y2, which terminates the motion. This model applies to many aspects of music, such as rhythm, meter, motive, harmonic progression, form, etc. And of course, the qualities of the two Y's on their level are quite different (one initiates, another terminates motion), and the fact that all three can represent something else on another level does not change their functional definitions.
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
--- On Sun, 7/17/11, Jack Boss <jfboss at uoregon.edu> wrote:

From: Jack Boss <jfboss at uoregon.edu>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Music theory on Wikipedia
To: "smt-talk at societymusictheory.org" <smt-talk at societymusictheory.org>
Date: Sunday, July 17, 2011, 9:59 PM

I’ve been following the argument over how to define “prolongation” on Wikipedia with some interest.  Some of you may know I authored an article in the Journal of Music Theory 17 years ago called “Schoenberg on Ornamentation and Structural Levels.” (Volume 38/2)  One of the main purposes of the article was to compare and contrast Schenkerian and Schoenbergian notions of structural levels (Yes, indeed, Schoenberg DID have a notion of structural levels, though he claimed that what constitutes the levels changes as history progresses).

>From what I discovered while researching that article, it seems to me that Y-X-Y represents better Schoenberg’s notion of ornamentation as he discusses it in the Harmonielehre, particularly the infamous chapter on non-harmonic tones.  X has all the same characteristics as Y, it’s a capital letter too, so that it could conceivably exist all by itself--X!-- or even take on ornaments of its own, X-Z-X.  Likewise, dissonant intervals created by passing tones, neighbors, etc. are intervals in their own right, though they reside higher up on the harmonic series, and a progressive composer ought to think about “emancipating” them or even giving them their own ornaments, even though Bach and Mozart didn’t.

Schenker’s viewpoint, which I understood through his response to Schoenberg, “The Dissonance is Always a Passing Occurrence, It is Never a Chord,” part of “Resumption of Urlinie Considerations” in Meisterwerk Vol. 2, and through his comments on the passing tone in second species in Counterpoint, was something different.  To him, the sensitive listener shouldn’t understand dissonances as intervals with the bass at the level they are created—they have no vertical existence at all, only a horizontal one.  Sure, at lower levels they can be harmonized and grow their own diminutions, but at the level they appear they do NOT have the status of intervals or chords.  In other words, Schenker seems to be challenging us as listeners to take a music-cognitive step—to hear through the dissonant interval as if the consonant one that preceded it was still there.  This is how I understand “prolongation”--a mental process of holding on to the
 consonance through the dissonance.  My late colleague Steve Larson used to demonstrate this in his Schenker classes by singing the prolonged notes as he played musical examples.  And I’ve incorporated this viewpoint into my Schenker teaching too with some success—whenever my students stem or beam a note and draw slurs from it, I ask them to find the consonant bass note and chord that supports it, then draw a box around the notes under the slur and ask, “could you hear the stemmed note/chord sustaining itself all the way through this box?”  You wouldn’t believe how many mistakes that simple principle helps them avoid.

So I’d represent Schenker’s understanding this way: “Y-(X)-Y, which later becomes Y-X-Y as we progress down closer to the surface.“ The parentheses represent the idea that X isn’t of the same status as Y originally, it’s “only a passing occurrence,” but it attains that status as we progress through the graph from back to front.

Don’t ask me to write the Wikipedia article, however, I’m a little too busy right now.  Jack
Jack Boss
Associate Professor, Music Theory
Director, School of Music Summer Session
President, West Coast Conference of Music Theory and Analysis
1225 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1225

email: jfboss at uoregon.edu
phone: (541) 346-5654
cell: (541) 556-6139
fax (shared): (541) 346-0723

-----Inline Attachment Follows-----

Smt-talk mailing list
Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20110718/07f0204a/attachment-0003.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list