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Directed Motion in Schoenberg and Webern

Author(s): Roy Travis


Source: Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring - Summer, 1966), pp. 85-89
Published by: Perspectives of New Music
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DIRECTED

MOTION IN SCHOENBERG
AND WEBERN
ROY TRAVIS

FELIX

SAL

Z ER 'S

Structural Hearing has alreadyprovided

eloquentevidencethatvaluableinsightsintothe music of Bart6k,


can be gainedby a broaderapplicationof
and Stravinsky
Hindemith,
theconceptsofHeinrichSchenker.But therehavebeenfewattempts
to explainthemusicofSchoenberg,
Berg,andWebernin theseterms;
themusicof atonality
and serialismdoes notreadilyyieldto analysis
fromthestandpoint
ofdirectedmotion.Such an approachimpliesnot
the
ofrecognizing
only possibility
originsandgoals
clearlyestablished
ofmotion,
buttheconcomitant
ofunderstanding
thedetails
possibility
ofsuchmotionsas elaborations
on variouslevels(foreground,
middleor
a
of
or
structure
ground, background)
primordialprogression
whichcan be assumedtounderlietheentirecomposition
andtounfold
time
some
of
sort
tonic
triadic
or
otherwise.'
through
sonority,
The difficulty
of attackingatonaland serialmusicwiththisset of
seemsobvious.Nevertheless,
in reconsidering
two brief
assumptions
I
and
have
been
Webern,
piano piecesby Schoenberg
respectively,
set
to
in
down
discussion
that
a
number
the
follows
of
obsertempted
vationsmade fromthis pointof view. As it happens,both of the
in questionhave been analyzedfromquite different
compositions
vantagepointsin separatearticlesthatappearedinthesecondissueof
PERSPECTIVES (Vol. 1, No. 2).2
I. SCHOENBERG,

OP.

19,

NO.

It is possibleto explainthechordalmaterialsof thesecondof the

Sechs Kleine Klavierstiickewithoutinvokingeitherimaginarytriads

of resolution3
or the cumbersome
if stylishirrelevancies
of mathe-

1 In an earlier articleI have discussed several examples fromStravinskyand Bart6k


involving dissonant tonic sonorities. (See "Toward a New Concept of Tonality?"
Journal of Music Theory,Vol. III, No. 2.)
2 Allen Forte, "Context and Continuityin an Atonal Work: A Set-TheoreticApproach," and Peter Westergaard, "Webern and 'Total Organization': An Analysis of
the Second Movementof Piano Variations,Op. 27."
3 Hugo Leichtentritt,
Musical Form, Harvard UniversityPress, Cambridge, 1961,
pp. 445-46.
v

85

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OF NEW

PERSPECTIVES

MUSIC

matical set-theory.4This brief compositionis concerned with the


reached only at the end
gradual approach to a complextonic-sonority
chord
ofm. 9. Containedwithinthesonorityitselfare a C-major-minor
with a major seventh,plus an analogous chord-formbuilt upon the
dominantdegree (Ex. 1).
The essential motionis accomplishedby means of two diverging
streams of thirds, each of which has its source in the reiterated
"dominant"third,G/B. The tonesofthisintervalare retainedthroughout, and eventuallytake on the meaning of inner-voices.This activity
can be schematicallysummarizedas in Ex. 2.
In rhythmiccontext,these events succeed each other as in Example 3.
It is necessaryto subject the sketchin Ex. 3 to several manipulations,bothregistraland motivic,in orderto relateit to the Schoenberg
piano piece. (Compare Ex. 3 to Ex. 4.)
For instance, the lower tone of Gb/Bb (the second member
of the descendingstreamof thirds) is deployedover no less than four
distinctregisters,in mm. 2, 5, and 6. Anotherdetail is the chromatic
ascent fromthe D of m. 2 (an upper voice of the V chord), via Eb
(mm. 3 and 4) and E (m. 5), to the F in the bass registerof m. 6.
This F, presentedtogetherwith Gb in m. 6, is in fact an anticipation
of the lower voice of the subsequent third, F/A to which Gb/Bb
progresses in m. 7. The succeeding bass descent is obvious. Note
however the effectof accelerationas the lower stream of thirds approaches the final tonic (mm. 51/--9). When one considers the
structuraloutervoices (indicated in boldly stemmedhalf-notes),the
significance of the reiterated motive G/B-C/Eb-G/B in mm. 4
and 5 becomes evident.It is a diminutionon the foregroundlevel of
the structuraleventsof the entirepiece (from G/B of m.1 to C/Eb
of m. 9). This diminutionis also hintedat in the espressivomelodyof
mm. 2-3. An attempthas been made to unravelthe complexitiesofthis
phrase in Ex. 5.
The sonorityin the finalmeasure of the Schoenberg piece can be
regarded as a diminutionin anothersense as well. The retentionof
the upper voices belongingto the V chord (F4, Bb, D) summarizes
in essence the motion of the entire composition,which in the last
built on
analysisis concernedwiththe movementfromthe chord-form
V to the same chord-formbuilt on I. By statingboth chords simultaneouslyat the end, Schoenberg remindsthe listenerof the genesis
of the entire piece. (Bart6k, of course, does very much the same
thingin m. 13 of his FourthQuartet,where the eighth-notesffchord
4 Allen Forte, op.cit.

86

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DIRECTED

MOTION

IN SCHOENBERG

AND

WEBERN

on the second beat of the measure summarizes the activityof mm.


4-13, which is concerned with the progressionfrom the four-tone
chromaticcluster at the end of m. 5 to the whole-tonecluster at the
end of m. 7 [Ex. 6]. )5
II. WEBERN,

PIANO

VARIATIONS,

OP.

27,

SECOND

MOVEMENT

In an analysis virtuallyas rigorousas the compositionit describes,


Peter Westergaard not onlycodifiesthe interrelationships
among:
i. thesevendyadsformedby theinversionsymmetry
aroundA... ;
ii. ... the fourpairs of row forms;
iii. .... registers;
iv. .... dynamiclevels;
and v. ... rhythmicvariables
but he interpretsthe effectsof these interrelationships
"in such traditional terms as: use of the medium, rhythmand meter, intervallic
detail, . . . harmonicmotion,and . . . form."6Althoughone hesitates
to add anythingto such a formidableand thoroughgoingdiscourse,
Mr. Westergaard'semphasis on the importanceof registrationand his
discussion of the harmonicmotion (not to mentionthe music itself)
has stimulateda line of inquirywhich I finddifficult
to resist.
First of all, to what extenthas "the inversionsymmetryaround A"
been expressedin termsof a fixedsystemof registration?7
In mm. 1-25
of the Webern Symphony,Op. 21, anothercontextin which "inversionally related row-formsare canonically disposed," the "axis of
is not only A (in this case the A below middle-C), but
symmetry"8
everysingle tonewithinthe first25 measuresis confinedto the system
of registrationillustratedin Ex. 7.
The question arises whether a similar system of registration
is employedin the second movementof the Op. 27 Piano Variations.
In Ex. 8 I have eliminatedthe hand-crossingsin orderto reveal more
clearlythe actual sequence of auditoryeventsso thata possible system
of registrationmight become more evident.
What emergesis not a single systemforthe entirepiece, but four
slightlydifferent
systemscorrespondingto each of the four pairs of
row-forms.All four systems have in common not only the axis of
symmetryA, but the three other dyads circled (Fj/C, C#/F, and
5 See Milton Babbitt, "The String Quartets of Bart6k," Musical Quarterly,Vol.
xxxv, No. 3, Ex. 8, pp. 381-82, and George Perle, "SymmetricalFormationsin the
StringQuartetsof B61a Bart6k,"Music Review, Vol. 16, No. 4, Ex. 2a, p. 311.
6 See Peter Westergaard, op.cit., p. 109.
7 I am indebtedto Andrew Imbrie for alertingme to the presence of fixedsystems
of registrationin the music of Webern.
8sTo borrow George Perle's term (see op.cit.).

87*

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OF NEW

PERSPECTIVES

MUSIC

G#/Bb).Two otherdyads (Eb/D#and D/E) are sharedby three


ofthefoursystems.
It is evidentthata tensionarisesbetweenthe clear canonicstatementofa row-form
and itsinversion,
and thevoice-crossings
necessiof
tatedby such "pre-ordained"
It
systems registration. mightbe
arguedthatthe prevailingeighth-note
lag betweencanonic"voices"
to distinguish
them.
(pointedoutby Mr. Westergaard)is sufficient
However,themarkeddynamiccontrastbetweensuccessivearticulationpatternstendsto emphasizea givendyad ratherthanits comtheseare onlypartiallyclariponentcanonic"voices."9Furthermore,
ofcrossinghands,becausethehands
fiedbytheelaboratepantomime
severaltimesin mid-row(e.g., in mm.5, 8, 17,
exchangerow-forms
and 19). Thereforeif discreterow formsin canonicrelationship
and in terms
emergeat all in performance,
theydo so imperfectly,
of
a
rather
an
than
visual
primarily
experience.
auditory
It is interesting
to speculateon the possiblemeaningsthat the
Salzerianconceptof melodicprogression
couldhave withinthefixed
in
of
of
this
which
thecomposerhas legissystems registration
piece,
latedthatall activity
is to be confined
to a particulargroupof dyads
are
(or pairs of tones) of whicheach memberand its counterpart
For exalwaysto be equidistantfroma commonaxis of symmetry.
ample,therewould seem to be threepossibleways of interpreting
betweentonesindifferent
progressions
registers.
1. Melodic progressionmay occur freelyfromany chromaticdegree to any other,regardless of respectivepositionwithin the fixed

to hearingsuchprogressions
"galaxy"oftones.The chiefimpediment
in thispiecewouldbe theonealreadymentioned,
namely,thatsincea
melodic
is
given
progression alwayspresentedtogetherwithits inin
version, purelyauditorytermsthereis no way forthe listenerto
knowwhena voice-crossing
is intended.
2. Melodic progressionis to be understoodonly as motionfroma
given dyad to a directlyadjacent dyad closer to or furtheraway from
the common axis of symmetry.This definitionseems to offerthe

howadvantageof immediateauditoryintelligibility.
Unfortunately
it is clearlyapplicableonlyto
ever,as faras I am able to determine,
mm.6-9 ofthismovement.
Ex. 8.)
(See bracketed
context,
3. Melodic progressionmay occur fromany degree to any other,
regardlessof octave registration,providingthat it is not necessaryto
assume a voice-crossingor inversionof a dyad. For example, if the

followingoctavetransfersof registerwere admitted(Ex. 9), it

9 If, for example, the left hand were to have been played f and the right hand
p,
it might have been easier to hear a principal form crossing its inversion in the
monochrometimbreof the piano.

88 a

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DIRECTED

MOTION

IN SCHOENBERG

AND WEBERN

in termsofan alterwouldbe possibleto explaintheentiremovement


nationbetweenthe "Tonic Dyad" (G#/Bb) and the "Polar Dyad"
betweenmajor secondsa tritone
(D/E). This repeatedprogression
same
time
would
the
of harat
apart
explainthe over-allimpression
monicstasis, and the apparentlycontradictory
of
sense
harmonic
thrustwhichimpelledMr. Westergaardto recognize"Haydnesque
wit" in the built-inluftpauseimmediately
precedingthe inevitable
returnto thefinal"TonicDyad" ofm. 22 (Ex. 10).

S89

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