[Smt-talk] II6/4

=?x-mac-roman?Q?Nicolas_Mee=9Ds?= nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be
Thu Sep 5 00:27:26 PDT 2013

Olli, I find your statement somewhat puzzling. Do you mean "a general 
theory of masterworks", which indeed Schenkerian theory is in a way but 
which is not necessarily incompatible with its being a general theory of 
tonality, or "a general theory of the tonality of masterworks", which 
seems to me hardly possible.

Speaking of Schenker's own intentions, I believe he intended his theory 
as a general theory of tonality, but somehow immediately added that true 
tonality was accessible only to the genius. We may disagree with the 
second part of the intention without rejecting the first.

When you mention "a certain kind of art music", you imply that there 
exist other kinds of music (say, lighter music) that may not show the 
same hierarchies. Indeed; but doesn't that also imply that these kinds 
of music evidence a lesser level of "tonality"? Do you believe that 
music is either tonal or not, a mere binary choice? Don't you think that 
tonality, on the contrary, is something that grew rather slowly and that 
there are late Renaissance or very early Baroque pieces that are less 
tonal than, say, a Beethoven symphony, but nevertherless somewhat tonal?

This, contrarily to what Schenker thought, does not involve a complete 
judgment of valor, because the valor of a piece of music may reside 
elsewhere. I trust that it is possible to recognize levels of tonality, 
which may indeed be dependent on the hierarchy of structural levels. 
Whatever interest one may have for some recent cases of tonal music, one 
must admit that the interest often does not reside in these pieces being 

Nicolas Mees
UniversitŽ Paris-Sorbonne (Emeritus)

Le 3/09/2013 20:57, Olli VŠisŠlŠ a Žcrit :
> Incidentally, Schenker did not intend his theory as a general theory 
> of tonality (as some recent authors have suggested) but of 
> "masterworks." I think he may well have been on the right track in 
> that the hierarchy of structural levels is indeed a resource mainly 
> exploited in a certain kind of "art music."

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