Pre-organised session - Ambiguity, Illusion & Timelessness in Late and Post-Tonal Harmony
Chairs: Ariane Jeßulat and Uri Rom
Late and post-tonal music features chromatic saturation, frequent enharmonic reinterpretations as well as symmetry-driven chord relations. This has given rise to ample theoretical exploration in contemporaneous sources (Hauptmann, Riemann, Schenker, Schoenberg) as well as newer theoretical frameworks (Theory of Tone Fields, Neo-Riemannian Theory).
In our proposed session we engage a broad spectrum of “marked,” multivalent harmonic phenomena derived from the relevant repertoires. Ou first paper addresses the concept of “Second Diatonicism” (Dahlhaus), illustrating that in certain types of music (Mendelssohn, Grieg, Reger), chromaticism is used in a quasi-diatonic manner, engendering a sense of standstill and ‘timelessness.’ Our second paper reaches into post-tonal music in which centricity still plays a role, arguing that the chords with augmented sixth inherited from early Baroque still possess striking tonal functionality even in otherwise atonal environments. The third paper proposes a new integrative approach, combining concepts derived from Theory of Tone Fields and Neo-Riemannian Theory, and introducing an expanded generative syntactic framework that incorporates octatonic and hexatonic fields. The fourth paper engages the principles of harmonic root progressions (Schoenberg) to analyze passages by Brahms and Schoenberg, showing that local enharmonic ambiguities may engender an illusionary superposition of two equally viable, but diametrically opposed readings of the same passage.
The diversity of approaches and topics boils down to the methodological meta-question of analytically representing musical (particularly harmonic) ambiguity and multivalence—a widely acknowledged Achilles heel of analytical approaches that apply reduction of the surface level. This question will propel our ensuing panel discussion.