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Questioning Schenkerism

Bengt Edlund

During the past fifty years Schenkerian theory has been adopted as the main method for analysing tonal music. This book questions the value of Schenker’s «tonal analysis» for musical description and interpretation, and discusses its relations to «generative» theory and «implicational» analysis – taking into account its links with linguistic syntax and the perception of tonal closure. It is observed how auxiliary theoretical concepts transform the music so as to pave the way for preordained tonal structures. Alternative readings of the music examples are provided.
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Chapter 3: Is tonal music hierarchic? An impenitent sermon


← 170 | 171 → Chapter 3 Is tonal music hierarchic? An impenitent sermon

You don’t get universal just because you are not specific.

(Unknown thinker)


Off-off Downing Street, No. 10 refers to the chorale Ich bins, ich sollte büßen in Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The music is so awesome – plain and yet complex, expansive and yet intimate – that one cannot but search for its structure; cf. Ex. 1. Ever since a certain book was published in 1935, quite a few music analysts believe that we live in the best of worlds, and that “structure” is established by means of “tonal reduction”, by means of a recursive, hierarchic selection of musical events undertaken according to laws that are once and for all laid down in the very nature of tonal music.

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