Dissertation Index

Author: Ricci, Adam

Title: A Theory of the Harmonic Sequence

Institution: Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Begun: May 2000

Completed: May 2004


The present study attempts to resolve inconsistencies found in previous discussions of the harmonic sequence by defining it as the pairing of a repeating series of root motions and a repeating series of voice-leading motions. The two components are first investigated separately. Building upon the work of John Clough, a classification scheme based upon the various ways of combining intervals of root motion is proposed. This scheme provides a framework for discussing unusual sequences that occur occasionally in music literature, including those whose patterns contain more than two chords. Methods for relating patterns of different cardinalities in the same scale and patterns of the same cardinality in scales of different sizes are developed. The distinction between sequences that begin and end with the same chord (prolongational) and those that begin and end with different chords (progressional) is generalized. An investigation into primitive types of voice-leading motion s leads to a grouping of sequences by degree of voice-leading smoothness, a grouping whose connection to compositional practice is explored. Taken as a whole, the classification scheme demonstrates that the most-used sequences in the literature possess a certain constellation of properties. Harmonic sequences in passages by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Chopin, Purcell, Schubert, Schumann and Wagner are examined.

Keywords: harmonic sequence, voice leading, prolongation, voice-leading distance, Ich grolle nicht, Tristan und Isolde, Virga Jesse, reduction


Chapter 1: Precedents
Chapter 2: Overview of Classification Scheme
Chapter 3: Pitch-class Space
Chapter 4: Pitch Space
Chapter 5: Analyses


Adam Ricci
UNC Greensboro
School of Music
P.O. Box 26170
Greensboro, NC 27402-6170
336.334.3301 (office)
336.334.5497 (fax)

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