Date of Degree
L. Poundie Burstein
Wayne C. Petty
Musicology | Music Theory
Heinrich Schenker, Formenlehre, sonata form, organicism, synthesis, causality
This dissertation constructs Heinrich Schenker’s early approach to form and traces its development as his organic theory of transformational voice leading emerged in the early 1920s. Schenker’s late approach to form is then briefly reconsidered from this newfound perspective.
Chapter 1 defines the nineteenth-century Formenlehre tradition established by A. B. Marx and passed down to Anton Bruckner through his studies in model composition, leading to Schenker himself. Chapter 2 presents Schenker’s early approach to form in a generative fashion, demonstrating how a single motive can grow into a large thematic group unified by a single key area or an economy of Stufen. Chapter 3 introduces the schemas that Schenker developed in the 1910s to analyze full-movement forms, from one-part form to six-part cyclic form. Chapter 4 reappraises Schenker’s later work, including the inherent conflict between the continuity of counterpoint (as in J. S. Bach’s fugues) and the discontinuity of musical form (as in Beethoven’s sonatas). The Formenlehre expressed in Der freie Satz (1935) is viewed as an attempt to unify these two “musical cultures” through a single cause (Halm 1913): the background’s dynamic transformation into the foreground.
Yet this union of voice leading and form is not always convincing. The schematic forms described in the last chapter of Der freie Satz (1935) are identical to those encountered in Schenker’s work twenty years earlier. Schenker claims to derive these forms from the background as a matter of generative theory—but as a matter of history, they predate his apprehension of the background altogether. Given this insight, I contend that the relationship between form and content is reciprocal: form is best understood not only as a surface manifestation of tonal forces emanating from the background but also as a co-determining force that shapes deeper levels of voice-leading structure (C. Smith 1996). The latter force is manifest through interruption: Schenker’s last theoretical concept, which enabled him to integrate organic voice leading with a more traditional Formenlehre (Rothstein 2001; Samarotto 2005). This dissertation therefore rejects the monism permeating Schenker’s late work and calls for a return to his original conception of Synthese, in which independent musical parameters are integrated rather than fully subsumed by the controlling influence of the Ursatz (Korsyn 1988; Cohn 1992a, 1992b; Lubben 1993; Cook 2007; Brody 2015).
Hooper, Jason A., "Heinrich Schenker’s Early Approach to Form, 1895–1921: Implications for His Late Work and Its Reception" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.