Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joseph N. Straus

Committee Members

Philip A. Ewell

William Rothstein

Philip Lambert

Subject Categories



Twentieth-century Russian music exhibits a diversity of approaches to triadic composition. Triads appear in harmonic contexts that range from tonal to atonal, as well as in referential contexts where triadic music evokes historical styles. Theorists in Russia have approached this repertoire from perspectives that differ from those of their English-speaking counterparts, but because little Russian theory has been reliably translated into English, the work remains largely unknown. This dissertation explores three case studies dealing with the treatment of triads in contrapuntal, functionally harmonic, and atonal contexts respectively, drawing on untranslated (or in one case, poorly translated) writings from twentieth-century Russian music theory.

The first study describes Sergey Taneyev’s system of generalized invertible counterpoint, arguing that its algebraic approach, designed for sixteenth-century repertoire, can be extended in the analysis of tonal contrapuntal music. The second study traces the history of Russian thought on the common third relation, known in neo-Riemannian theory as SLIDE, the relation joining triads that share a chordal third, such as C major and C-sharp minor. The Russian conception of the relation, which predates the neo-Riemannian, applies not only to triadic adjacencies but also in functional harmonic substitutions, the transformation of thematic melodies, and the altered scale degrees of Prokofiev and Shostakovich. The third study examines the strings of major and minor triads that Alfred Schnittke deploys in his atonal works, arguing that Schnittke has cultivated a framework that deliberately avoids the patterns of tonal writing. This allows the triads to be understood without recourse to “polystylism,” a historicizing practice under which Schnittke’s triads have typically been subsumed. In general, ideas drawn from Russian-language scholarship complement existing English-language approaches by offering new insights into repertoires that have not been fully understood.

Included in

Music Commons