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Webern’s Drei Volkstexte Number 1: An Analysis

Webern’s Drei Volkstexte Number 1: An Analysis

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Published by Kyle Vanderburg
Analysis of Webern's Drei Volkstexte No. 1
Analysis of Webern's Drei Volkstexte No. 1

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Published by: Kyle Vanderburg on Jul 06, 2011
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06/02/2014

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 WEBERN’S
DREI VOLKSTEXTE
NUMBER 1: AN ANALYSISKyle Vanderburg  Twentieth Century Analysis - MUTH 5833May 2, 2010
 
 Vanderburg 2
Introduction
 Anton Webern’s 1925 work,
Drei Volkstexte 
, or
Three Traditional Rhymes 
, indicates a shift in thecomposer’s process of composition. Webern’s earlier compositional output was characterized by freeatonality prior to his opus eighteen,
Drei Geistliche Volkslieder 
, his first work composed using ArnoldSchoenberg’s twelve-tone technique. However,
Three Traditional Rhymes 
, his opus seventeen, shows signs of experimentation with twelve-tone technique and can be analyzed as an atonal-dodecaphonic hybrid.
Set-class Analysis
 The majority of Webern’s opus seventeen number one can be analyzed using musical set theory. While there are a number of possible segmentations of the musical material (many of which are outlined inscores 1-1 through 1-3), the most recurring musical sets are the mirrored tetrachords 4-1 (0123), 4-7 (0145),and 4-8 (0156), and the mirrored trichord 3-1 (012). The mirrored trichord 3-1 (012) is the most recurring trichord in opus seventeen number one,occurring a total of six times
1
, as outlined in orange. This trichord appears in the voice part of measures fiveand six, the violin part of measures five and six, the bass clarinet part of measure nine, the clarinet and bassclarinet parts of measure fourteen, the voice part of measure fifteen, and the clarinet and bass clarinet parts of that same measure. The first iteration is transformed into the second by way of T
3
, the second to the third by  T
6
, the third to the fourth by T
5
, the fourth to the fifth by T
9
, and the fifth to the sixth by T
3
. Despite thehigh number of occurrences of this trichord, there does not appear to be any patterns within thetranspositional transformation. As four out of the six of these segments are linear rather than additive (theexceptions being Orange-4
2
and Orange-6), it is not only possible but rather likely that Webern was simply using the 3-1 set class to emphasize the minor second sound, a concept that is repeated through all of therecurring set classes. The mirrored tetrachord 4-1 (0123) appears ten times within the 16-measure work. The first, labeledRed-1 on page 2-1, consists of the last note in the voice part of measure three and the entirety of the voice
1
 
 This count includes all expressions of 3-1 (012) outside of the 4-1 (0123) hexachord.
2
A word about nomenclature: the four trichords and tetrachords referenced in this paper are outlined with differentcolors in score 2. When referencing these chords in the text, I refer to them by the colors that outline them in that score:Orange for 3-1 (012), Red for 4-1 (0123), Blue for 4-7 (0145), and Green for 4-8 (0156).
 
 Vanderburg 3part of measure four. It is closely followed by a second iteration of 4-1, numbered Red-2, which encompassesthe entirety of the violin and clarinet parts of bar four. These two sets are connected via transposition at level T
8
. The next example of this set-class, Red-3, occurs in the same parts in the latter half of bar nine, which isconnected to Red-2 by transposition at T
3
. This process continues, using T
8
to arrive at Red-4 in the voicepart in measure 10, T
1
to reach Red-5 in the violin and clarinet parts of measure eleven, T
8
to arrive at Red-6in the bass clarinet part of measure eleven, T
11
to arrive at Red-7 in measures thirteen and fourteen, T
8
toarrive at Red-8 in measure fourteen, T
1
to arrive at Red-9 in measure fifteen, and finally T
4
to arrive at Red-10in measure sixteen. This progression of transposition, which appear at levels 8, 3, 8, 1, 8, 11, 8, 1, 4, show apattern of alternating levels of T
8
between levels of transposition decreasing by two (in the cases of 3, 1, and11). This method of systematic transposition is a recurring theme in opus seventeen number one. As shown by tetrachord 4-1, Webern appears to systematically and numerically alter his transpositionscheme. For tetrachord 4-7 (0145), the tetrachords once again appear to be related by transposition.Examples Blue-1 and Blue-2 are related by transposition at T
6
, Blue-2 and Blue-3 are related by transpositionat T
3
, Blue-3 and Blue-4 are related by transposition at T
5
, and Blue-4 and Blue-5 are related by transpositionat T
3
. This transpositional sequence creates the pattern T
6
,
 
 T
3
, T
5
, T
3
. Here, the level of T
3
appears to berecurring, while the levels of T
6
and
 
 T
5
appear to be of a pattern decreasing by one. A more obvious expression of Webern’s systematic transposition is seen with his treatment of set-class 4-8 (0156). This set class, which appears five times in this work and is outlined in blue, has a consistenttranspositional interval of T
2
between every adjacent recurrence. This transposition level of T
2
allows for aninteresting progression of the dyads formed by the first half of the tetrachords (56, 78, 9T, E0, 12) and thesecond half (TE, 01, 23, 45, 67). This serves as an extension of Webern’s use of the minor second as a sonicdevice. This work also includes a number of interesting treatments of sets not mentioned above. In the bassclarinet part in bar seven, seen on the left, the fourthirty-second notes and the first two sixteenth-notetriplets make up set 4-2 (0124), those same two

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