Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





William Rothstein

Committee Members

Joseph Straus

Poundie Burstein

Kofi Agawu

Subject Categories

Music Theory


Music analysis, Gustav Mahler, Schenkerian theory, Cadence, Common-tone tonality, Imaginary continuo


This dissertation presents a detailed study of harmony and voice leading at local levels of structure in the music of Gustav Mahler. The results are grouped into three domains: cadences, common-tone techniques, and the Mahlerian imaginary continuo. An investigation of Mahler’s cadences reveals an underlying simplicity in the diverse tonal progressions that Mahler uses to execute the tonal close of a phrase. Cadences are shown to derive from two basic types (authentic and plagal) and three basic transformations (tonic intrusion, Phrygian 2, and contrapuntal bass). In a study of common-tone techniques, this dissertation proposes a new system for identifying common-tone harmonies based on their voice-leading distance from a local reference harmony (“applied displacement”). The study then demonstrates how common-tone techniques generate new harmonies/voice-leadings, modulations, and non-structural (“associative”) relationships. A final essay on the Mahlerian imaginary continuo uses the concept of the imaginary continuo to help articulate the dissolution of classical tonality in Mahler’s music.

Included in

Music Theory Commons