Dissertation Index

Author: McDonnell, Donald R.

Title: Roger Sessions' Symphony No. 3, First Movement: Form, Hexachordal Polarity, and Harmonic Language (and) Nexus/Dreamscape for Chamber Ensemble. (Original Composition)

Institution: Brandeis University

Begun: September 1991

Completed: February 1994


The first movement of Roger Sessions' Symphony No. 3 is music deeply ramified in the tradition of Symphonic first movements, but speaks to us in a modern harmonic language. This dissertation explores the sonata form of the movement in relation to like forms in tonal music, and draws parallels between the polarity of tonic and dominant with Sessions' treatment of complementary hexachords. Abstract complementary relations between Z-related hexachords at the beginning of the movement create large-scale dissonance, analogous to modulation to the dominant in tonal sonatas. The unity of key in the recapitulation of some tonal sonatas is parallelled by large-scale aggregate-forming relations in the recapitulation of the Third Symphony's first movement. The harmonic language of the movement is rich and diverse, but two primary hexachords provide motivation for large-scale formal procedures and relationships, and are also the source of much of the movements local pitch structure.

The first chapter explores the genesis of the Third Symphony, references in the theoretical literature, and gives perspectives on analysis, and the historical context of the work. The second chapter defines theoretical premises to be used in the analysis of the movement. Chapters three and four are the heart of the paper, exploring the form of the movement and hexachordal polarity, and the harmonic language of the movement, respectively. The final chapter draws conclusions, summarizes the important points of focus earlier in the paper, and explores some implications for further research.

Keywords: Roger Sessions, sonata form, 12-tone, sets, hexachord, symphony, partition graphs


I. Introduction
1.1 Sessions on the Genesis of his Third Symphony
1.2 References in the Theoretical Literature
1.3 Perspectives on Analysis
1.4 Historical Context

II. Theoretical Preliminaries

III. Form and Hexachordal Polarity
3.1 Aspects of Sonata Form: Tonal Procedures/Twentieth-Century Procedures
3.1.1 Sessions' Concept of Sonata Form
3.1.2 Style Traits of Sonata Form
3.2 Tonal Polarity/Hexachordal Polarity
3.3 Thematic Articulations of Large-Scale Structure
3.4 Conclusions: the Form of the Movement
3.4.1 Sessions on the First Movement of His Third Symphony

IV. Aspects of Harmonic Language and Pitch Structure
4.1 Aggregate Formations
4.1.1 Overview-Prominent Row Appearances
4.1.2 Other Instances of the Row in the First Movement
4.1.3 Summary-The Use of the Row
4.1.4 Other Aggregate Formations
4.1.5 Summary of Aggregate Formations
4.2 Atonal Contexts for the Primary Hexachords and Their Pentachordal
4.2.1 Hexachord X and its Pentachordal Subsets
4.2.2 Hexachord Y and its Pentachordal Subsets
4.2.3 Summary-Atonal Contexts for the Primary Hexachords
4.3 Subsets of the Two Primary Hexachords
4.3.1 [0146] (4-Z15)
4.3.2 [0137] (4-Z29)
4.3.3 [0124] (4-2)
4.3.4 [027] (3-9)
4.3.5 Summary-Subsets of the Two Primary Hexachords
4.4 Secondary Hexachords: Their Use and Syntactic Function
4.4.1 The Chromatic Hexachord
4.4.2 Hexachord H
4.4.3 Summary-The Function of Secondary Hexachords

V. Conclusion

Appendix A: Set Class Frequency
Appendix B: Subset Content of the Two Primary Hexachords
Appendix C: Hexachordal Partition Graphs
Select Bibliography


Donald McDonnell
Faculty Box 121
Berklee College
1140 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02215
e-mail: dmcdonnell@berklee.edu

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