[Smt-talk] dramatic ^1s

Olli Väisälä ovaisala at siba.fi
Sat Apr 5 23:44:29 PDT 2014

Dear List,

First: Thanks to all who replied privately to my previous query  
concerning large-scale I–VI–IV–V–I progressions (even though some had  
slightly misunderstood what I meant).

And now to a new question:

Can you give me examples of pieces in which the attainment of Urlinie  
^1 makes a climactic or otherwise strong dramatic effect?

If you are not sure about Urlinie (or are anti-Schenkerian), we might  
reformulate the question as concerning any decisive-sounding  
attainment of I with ^1 in the soprano.

For clarifying what I mean by strong dramatic effects, I might  
mention two examples that I have in mind:

Debussy: L'Isle joyeuse, m. 220.
Sibelius: Violin Concerto, four measures after rehearse number 11.

In both cases, the attainment of ^1 is highlighted as the onset of  
material of increased, unforeseen intensity.

Note that both pieces are from the early 20th century (1903–1905).  
Both of them contain features that are not readily explained by  
conventional tonal syntax. Hence, it seems to me that the ^1 makes  
such a strong effect because it is not so self-evident that we get  
there. This contrasts with more conventional tonal pieces, in which  
the ^1 is a syntactic given, whose lack of dramatic effect is  
somewhat comparable to that of a period at the end of the sentence in  
written language.

Hence I would suggest that composers such as Debussy and Sibelius  
were able to revitalize and give new kind of meaning to the  
conventional structure by setting it off against non-conventional  

I welcome any suggestions or comments, on-list or off-list, but I  
suppose this issue might be of a more general interest.

Olli Väisälä
ovaisala at siba.fi
Sibelius Academy
University of the Arts, Helsinki

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