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



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