Dissertation Index

Author: Roy, Adam J.

Title: Motivic Metamorphosis: Modelling Intervallic Transformations in Schoenberg’s Early Works

Institution: Western University

Begun: September 2015

Completed: February 2021


Composers can manipulate a basic musical idea in theoretically infinite ways. This concept of manipulating musical material was a central compositional philosophy of Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951). As Schoenberg states, “whatever happens in a piece of music is nothing but the endless reshaping of a basic shape” (Schoenberg, [1935] 1975). It is the variety of ways in which these basic ideas, commonly termed motives, are manipulated that contributes to a work’s unique identity. According to Schoenberg, these varied basic shapes work dialogically to unify a musical piece. But how are these basic shapes varied?

Utilizing ordered intervals of pitch and duration, we may examine the structural properties of motivic segments which develop throughout a work. Exploring an analytical model tracking developmental transformations of melodic musical motives (shapes), this dissertation defines a robust group of intervallic transformations, equipping the analyst with a toolkit of transformational mechanisms. Applications of set-theory and other mathematically-based methodologies to Schoenberg’s post-1908 works often account for structural and motivic process. However, this is not the case for Schoenberg’s early works (1898 – 1908), where scholars typically examine form and harmony. But, as Carl Dahlhaus posits, Schoenberg thought motivically, and only detailed analyses of intervals demonstrate how motives relate to one another (Dahlhaus, 1987). Tracking such processes in Schoenberg’s early works, we come closer to understanding how new forms are created and their interrelations¬––how developed musical ideas emerge and are woven together to create coherence.

Defining a suite of transformational devices, this dissertation examines the treatment of varied motivic forms within two instrumental early works by Schoenberg, Pelleas und Melisande op. 5 (1903) and String Quartet no. 2, op. 10 (1908). The analyses reveal developmental paths via networks which connect musical statements and quantify how one object moves into the next. The results demonstrate specific transformational moves which account for the manipulation of a motivic object, thereby creating subsequent forms. Such investigations permit larger connections and qualified observations to be made within the work of Schoenberg and all composers manipulating motivic forms. The resultant work engages Schoenberg’s technique of musical development and investigates his motivic metamorphoses.

Keywords: Schoenberg, Motive, Development, Variation, Network, Transformation



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