Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





L. Poundie Burstein

Committee Members

William Rothstein

Kofi Agawu

Giorgio Sanguinetti

Subject Categories

Cognition and Perception | Composition | Musicology | Music Theory


schema, hierarchy, tonality, music, partimento


Prevalent modern-day theories of tonal hierarchy for eighteenth-century music, especially those influenced by the ideas of Heinrich Schenker, have been called into question by schema theorists such as Robert Gjerdingen and Vasili Byros, who argue from both cognitive and historical evidence that eighteenth-century tonal cognition was sequential or “windowed” rather than hierarchical. This dissertation seeks to recuperate the concept of tonal hierarchy in eighteenth-century music, drawing on research that reconstructs the implicit tonal theories of the partimento and thoroughbass traditions, as well as concepts of hierarchy from schema theory itself, to formulate a historically and cognitively grounded theory of tonal hierarchy for eighteenth-century music from a schema-theoretic perspective. It also theorizes a set of “middleground” schemata that structure the larger tonal discourse of eighteenth-century compositions.

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