Volume 1, Number 1 (Spring 2008)

Dissertation Abstracts

The Death and Ressurection of Function

by Gabriel Miller

Function is one of those words that everyone understands, yet everyone understands a little differently. Although the impact and pervasiveness of function in tonal theory today is undeniable, a single, unambiguous definition of the term has yet to be agreed upon. So many theorists—Daniel Harrison, Joel Lester, Eytan Agmon, Charles Smith, William Caplin and Gregory Proctor, to name a few—have so many different nuanced understandings of function that it is nearly impossible for conversations on the subject to be completely understood by all parties. This is because function comprises at least four distinct aspects, which, when all called by the same name, function, create ambiguity, confusion and contradiction.

Part I of the dissertation first illuminates this ambiguity in the term function by giving a historical basis for four different aspects of function, three of which are traced to Riemann, and one of which is traced all the way back to Rameau. A solution to the problem of ambiguity is then proposed: the elimination of the term function. In place of function, four new terms—behavior, kinship, province and quality—are invoked, each uniquely corresponding to one of the four aspects of function identified. The meanings of these new terms are elucidated by such harmonic topics as secondary dominants and six-four paradigms. A notation system is developed for behavior, in particular, which is used in conjunction with two standard systems of harmonic analysis to form a three-fold analysis that yields deeper explanations of harmony characteristics.

Part II of the dissertation reveals how the proposed theory of behavior leads to new explanations for chromatic harmonies. A definition of tonicization based on behavior paradigms is presented. The models suggest that tonicization is a better explanation than is mixture for many chromatic notes and harmonies that are typically explained with mixture. Further, so-called linear or voice-leading chords (such as augmented sixth chords, common-tone diminished seventh chords, chromatic mediants, etc.) are examined through the lens of the theory of behavior. Finally, I discuss ramifications of the theory of behavior for musics beyond the realm of classical diatonic tonality, including 19th-century chromatic tonality, jazz, and popular music.

Part III of the dissertation traces the history of the four aspects of function from Rameau to Riemann. This account includes such figures as Rameau, Béthizy, Daube, Kirnberger, Koch, Vogler, Momigny, Weber, Fétis, Sechter, Hauptmann, Helmholtz, and Riemann.

A Historical Perspective on Pere Valls; With a Stylistic and Structural Analysis of Suite Andaluza

by Joseph M. Schauer

This study will focus on Spanish double bassist and composer, Pere Valls i Duran. Through both an investigation of his work and contributing historical factors, I will detail his significance to the development of a truly Spanish school of double bass. As a means of illustrating how his compositions make use of uniquely Spanish elements, thus creating a double bass repertoire distinct from that of other models, I will detail one of his most widely performed works, Suite Andaluza.

This composition will be viewed in terms of illustrating conventions indicative of the Spanish school. To this end, special focus will be given to compositional tendencies as they relate to the pre-existing forms on which the suite is based. In this particular piece, there are four such forms which represent distinct movements. These four are: Serenata, Polo Gitano, Saeta and Zapateado.

As stated, these four movements are based on pre-existing forms and represent a valuable addition to the double bass repertoire.

Common Universal Principles of Music: A Foundational Approach to Core Music Instruction in Undergraduate Theory

by Christy Talbott

Music is a large subject with many diverse subcategories (Pop, Classical, Reggae, Jazz and so on). Each subcategory, classified as a genre for its unique qualities, should relate in some way to that broader subject. These unique properties, however, do not negate all possible relationships among the genres. That these subcategories fit under a "music" label implies that they contain commonalities that transcend their differences. If there is, then, a set of commonalities for this abstract concept of music, then an examination of musics from diverse cultures should illuminate this fact. This "set of commonalities" for a real subject called music should not be limited to the Germanic tradition of the 16th-18th century or to Parisian art song of the 19th but, instead, is open to a world repertoire unbounded by era or nation. Every culture has invented a music of its own. The task here is to show that, from a variety of sources, a basic set of elements is common across cultures. In addition, those elements do not distinguish one category from another but, instead, collectively suggest a set of common principles. As a solution to a narrow scope of literature in the classroom, a course is designed that emphasizes Common Universal Elements and Common Universal Principles. A Grid of Pertinence presents a visual representation of an analysis that identifies salient features. By identifying those features common to many musics, theory instructors can provide a new and more relevant foundation for teaching music to students of all interests.