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Thread: Decoding Beethoven

  1. #31
    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    No, he's talking about harmonic progression, and trying desperately to keep truly chromatic (modern) thinking in the straight-jacket confines of simple diatonicism, especially in light of the fact that Wagner's chromatic excursions defy Schenker, and other forms of harmonic analysis which require a tonic (a real tonic, that makes sounds) as part of the deal.

    Harmonic analysis, BTW, arose concurrently when musical education became institutionalized in conservatories, and classical tonality, with all its Roman numerals became canonized and began to congeal. As an academic, Woodduck is compelled to reject all else as heresy, for his own survival as a pedagogue.

    The very idea of Wagner simply "thinking chromatically" outside the bounds of academic diatonicism gives Woodduck the heebie-jeebies.

    The only justification of this $1600 textbook is to justify Wagner diatonically, to counter the growing perception that Wagner (God forbid) foreshadowed modernism and (eek!) Schoenberg's abandonment of Woodduck's precious diatonic system, and - oh, yes - that one can think chromatically.
    Ah, I see. I didn't understand that this is part of a long-standing polemic between you and Woodduck.
    I have to say at this juncture that I agree with Woodduck that one can more or less "analyse" his music diatonically, or relate it diatonically, even though it is not always possible to "anchor" it in Schenkerian terms..
    As to the rise in Roman numerals, it always existed anyway (kind of) in figured bass: what a Baroque composer (or continuo player) would have figured as +4 simply translates later as V4/2 or V7D (if you will). The point I'm trying to make is that one notational convention (+4) was supplanted by another (V7D).
    Otherwise, I don't see the problem in perceiving Wagner (or Bruckner, or Mahler) as foreshadowing modernism.
    Last edited by TalkingHead; Mar-08-2019 at 23:17.

  2. #32
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Don't tell TalkingHead what I'm saying and doing. I can do that myself. You get into enough trouble speaking for yourself.
    He deserves a clear explanation. Anyway, the info I provided about your attitude has already been confirmed by you as being correct, since you have rejected all geometric/chromatic space methods of modeling, and I know you don't want Wagner to be portrayed as a chromatic thinker. Isn't that right, Woodduck? You've already confirmed this!

  3. #33
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    It's really simple in principle. I could write an entire piece of music in, say, Bb major, and never sound a Bb major triad, yet the harmonic functions present would indicate the unstated tonic that gives meaning to the rest.
    That's a much simpler example than Wagner's use of diminished and half-diminished chord voice leadings, which can have at least four possible choices.
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  4. #34
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TalkingHead View Post
    Ah, I see. I didn't understand that this is part of a long-standing polemic between you and Woodduck.
    It's bigger than that; it's a polemic between simple diatonic thinking and chromatic thinking.

    I have to say at this juncture that I agree with Woodduck that one can more or less "analyse" his music diatonically, or relate it diatonically, even though it is not always possible to "anchor" it in Schenkerian terms.
    No, you cannot analyze all of Wagner in terms of Schernkerian analysis, because Schenkerian analysis requires a REAL tonic, which cannot be considered if it does not exist.

    One can more or less (I'd say "less") "analyse" (yes, in quotes) his music diatonically, or relate it diatonically, if one is a "believer" in diatonicism. But the fact is, Wagner is thinking chromatically.
    As to the rise in Roman numerals, it always existed anyway (kind of) in figured bass: what a Baroque composer (or continuo player) would have figured as +4 simply translates later as V4/2 or V7D (if you will). The point I'm trying to make is that one notational convention (+4) was supplanted by another (V7D).
    When this happened is not crucial. In your example, it's all diatonic anyway.

    Otherwise, I don't see the problem in perceiving Wagner (or Bruckner, or Mahler) as foreshadowing modernism.
    I don't either; but Woodduck's rejection of all geometric modeling methods relating to chromatic pitch-space is conservative and outmoded. He still wants to see intervals not as quantities in pitch-space (that's too modern, like serialism; he likes the old Church-method), but as identities within key areas. How quaint.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    He deserves a clear explanation. Anyway, the info I provided about your attitude has already been confirmed by you as being correct, since you have rejected all geometric/chromatic space methods of modeling, and I know you don't want Wagner to be portrayed as a chromatic thinker. Isn't that right, Woodduck? You've already confirmed this!
    People who yell lose credibility. And no, I haven't confirmed that, except inside your apparently overheated cranium.

  6. #36
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    That's a much simpler example than Wagner's use of diminished and half-diminished chord voice leadings, which can have at least four possible choices.
    There are multiple choices in the abstract - in isolation. But we don't analyze music a chord at a time. Wagner makes but one choice each time, according to the tonal direction in which he wants to go.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-10-2019 at 00:25.

  7. #37
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    It's bigger than that; it's a polemic between simple diatonic thinking and chromatic thinking.
    No it isn't. Diatonic and chromatic thinking are not mutually exclusive. The first can, and in Wagner does, give meaning to the second.

    That Wagner "thinks chromatically" doesn't mean that he either eschews or loses track of the tonal implications of what he's writing. His chromaticism, like chromaticism in earlier music, serves expressive purposes, and often his purposes require that tonal orientation remain suspended or ambiguous for a certain length of time. The effect of that ambiguity depends crucially on tonal expectations set up and maintained by reference to known tonal relations, whether or not these are made explicit. He isn't sailing without a rudder or a sextant.

    Pure "chromatic thinking" would land us in atonality. Wagner's way of moving rapidly, by means of chromatic voice leading, from tonal area to tonal area through other tonal areas more or less glancingly hinted at, is not atonality, and the listener's diatonically-trained expectations are as important in understanding it - grasping its expressive value and its sense of logical progression - as they are in understanding Beethoven. Wagner reminds us of this frequently by changing key signatures and by erecting clear signposts in the form of plain diatonic cadences. By this means he creates the long arcs of oscillating tension/resolution of which his works are built.

    I'm frankly indifferent to what system of visual symbols anyone might use to describe Wagner's harmonic structures. I recognize that Roman numerals were not created to describe chromatic passing chords traversing alien key areas. But any system of analysis that doesn't identify the music's tonal guideposts and implications will not describe Wagner's procedures accurately. Music is meant to be heard; analysis comes later, if it must, and to be of any value it has to confirm what is understood by listening.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-10-2019 at 06:30.

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  9. #38
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Woodduck's rejection of all geometric modeling methods relating to chromatic pitch-space...
    Gosh... Venture a few critical remarks about a superfluous little game called "Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro" and this is the kind of thing they start to say about you...

    Please don't tell my mother that I've rejected all geometric modeling methods relating to chromatic pitch-space. She's ninety-two and has high blood pressure.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-10-2019 at 04:48.

  10. #39
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Gosh... Venture a few critical remarks about a superfluous little game called "Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro" and this is the kind of thing they start to say about you...

    Please don't tell my mother that I've rejected all geometric modeling methods relating to chromatic pitch-space. She's ninety-two and has high blood pressure.
    Having second thoughts, eh?
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
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  11. #40
    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    It's bigger than that; it's a polemic between simple diatonic thinking and chromatic thinking.



    No, you cannot analyze all of Wagner in terms of Schernkerian analysis, because Schenkerian analysis requires a REAL tonic, which cannot be considered if it does not exist.

    One can more or less (I'd say "less") "analyse" (yes, in quotes) his music diatonically, or relate it diatonically, if one is a "believer" in diatonicism. But the fact is, Wagner is thinking chromatically.

    When this happened is not crucial. In your example, it's all diatonic anyway.



    I don't either; but Woodduck's rejection of all geometric modeling methods relating to chromatic pitch-space is conservative and outmoded. He still wants to see intervals not as quantities in pitch-space (that's too modern, like serialism; he likes the old Church-method), but as identities within key areas. How quaint.
    What you have written above is, in music theoretic terms, nonsense. Believer in diatonicism? That is a category no one with training would use. "Quantities in pitch space?" What is that supposed to mean? "the old Church method?" This connects to nothing in reality, or at least nothing remotely related to any of the music under discussion. It doesn't sound like you know any Schenkerians or that you have studied Schenkerian analysis either. They graph nonexistent or implied tonics. "A polemic between simple diatonic thinking and chromatic thinking?" This is a complete mischaracterization of the discussion. Who do you think you're fooling with this pseudo-theoretical word salad?

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  12. #41
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Believer in diatonicism? That is a category no one with training would use.
    Yes, diatonic thinking vs. chromatic thinking. Of course, no one with training in a conservatory even knows what chromatic thinking is. They've already been brainwashed into diatonic thinking. This is invisible to you, though, since you've never thought outside the box. You're like a goldfish who is unaware that he is in a bowl of water.

    "Quantities in pitch space?" What is that supposed to mean?
    Apparently you do not understand the concepts of "pitch identity" and "pitch quantity." See my blog. A key theoretical concept is that of "tonal space."

    "the old Church method?"
    i.e., diatonic

    This connects to nothing in reality, or at least nothing remotely related to any of the music under discussion.
    Yes it does, but apparently your trained mind can't grasp it.

    It doesn't sound like you know any Schenkerians or that you have studied Schenkerian analysis either. They graph nonexistent or implied tonics.
    "Implied tonics?" What is that supposed to mean? There is not even a WIK entry on "implied tonics" because this is such a nebulous concept.

    "A polemic between simple diatonic thinking and chromatic thinking?" This is a complete mischaracterization of the discussion. Who do you think you're fooling with this pseudo-theoretical word salad?
    That's Woodduck's ultimate goal: to have Wagner seen as a tonal thinker, thus avoiding the association with the chromatic dissipation of tonality and diatonicism.

    How long do you think you can go with these obsolete ideas of diatonic tonality?
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Mar-10-2019 at 18:58.
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    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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    I was heavily involved in the academic music theory scene in the late-1970's and 80's as a grad student (MM theory, Indiana; PhD composition, Eastman), then theory lecturer. My advanced studies included motivic, Schenkerian, pitch-class set, serial, and modal analysis along with single-period and -genre studies. Now semi-retired, I listen, sing and write about music, no longer in an academic context. I was fortunate to have a course with expert Wagner musicologist Robert Bailey in which he lectured on Tristan and Isolde and Die Meistersinger. Here are some non-technically-worded points I'd like to make about the music theory aspects of numerous, sometimes-complicated issues raised above:

    1. References to "Wagner" should specify "Tristan ..." if the topic is "chromatic dissipation of tonality and diatonicism." For dramatic reasons Wagner extended tonality in this work much more than in his earlier or later operas. From Robert Bailey's class I am convinced that Tristan is a tonal work but in analysis some concepts from diatonic harmony should be dropped.
    2. The commonly-accepted idea that Tristan led to a crisis in tonality is based on analyses (1) stressing the ambiguous effect created by persistent use of certain chords that can move this way or that; and (2) sometimes stressing the significance of voice-leading - the "horizontal" motion in each line - over "vertical" chord structures and resulting progressions. No. 1 is self-evident; no. 2 is subtle and open to interpretation in my view.
    3. Schenkerian analysis is about tonal music (for the orthodox, up to Brahms; I think expanding the boundaries can be useful, but carrying it into atonal music is not).
    4. Tonal music that is chromatic, and atonal music that is chromatic, are two different things. Hard-fought battles were waged between them in the early-mid twentieth century. Implying there is a sort of logical movement from one to the other is in my opinion wrong.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Mar-10-2019 at 21:54.

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  15. #43
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    "Implied tonics?" What is that supposed to mean? There is not even a WIK entry on "implied tonics" because this is such a nebulous concept.

    That's Woodduck's ultimate goal: to have Wagner seen as a tonal thinker, thus avoiding the association with the chromatic dissipation of tonality and diatonicism.
    There's nothing nebulous about the concept of an implied tonic. I cited the well-known example of Schumann's wonderful C-Major Piano Fantasy, which begins on the dominant of its key and refuses to give us a tonic chord or cadence during its first five minutes, and then just when we might think we're about to get one, switches over to c-minor. We don't hear a decisive cadence in the work's primary key until about eleven minutes in.

    Look and listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ7hE4lQAYs

    As for Woodduck's "ultimate goal," I doubt that I have one. My objective here (now that we appear to have left the OP behind) is to state that Wagner was indeed a tonal thinker and a manipulator of tonality of the most astonishing prowess - that his imaginative exploitation of chromatic harmony is fundamentally an expansion, rather than a rejection, of tonality. The rejection of tonality was Schoenberg's job, not Wagner's; Schoenberg was explicit about wanting to prevent the sense of tonal gravitation from arising in the listener (though he didn't always do so even in nominally 12-tone works), while Wagner relied constantly on that sense to give meaning to what he was writing, including passages in which the pull of tonal gravitation is attenuated, ambiguous, or even (rarely) completely suspended.

    Wagner said, while composing the third act of Parsifal (his most extreme work harmonically), that he felt as if he were reinventing music. He knew he was stretching the possibilities of tonality. But he was still relying on it to create the subtle, anguished tensions this music exhibits:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch3o2Fxxazw
    Last edited by Woodduck; Mar-10-2019 at 22:22.

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  17. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ... Wagner was indeed a tonal thinker and a manipulator of tonality of the most astonishing prowess - that his imaginative exploitation of chromatic harmony is fundamentally an expansion, rather than a rejection, of tonality. The rejection of tonality was Schoenberg's job, not Wagner's; Schoenberg was explicit about wanting to prevent the sense of tonal gravitation from arising in the listener (though he didn't always do so even in nominally 12-tone works), while Wagner relied constantly on that sense to give meaning to what he was writing, including passages in which the pull of tonal gravitation is attenuated, ambiguous, or even (rarely) completely suspended.
    Yes I agree with your comments about Wagner and tonality; also, thanks for bringing up the example of Parsifal, Act 3 especially the Prelude. I saw the live streaming of the Gatti-conducted 2013 Met production on the wide screen and it was extraordinarily moving.

    Personally, I find some atonal and serial compositions excellent and they have influenced my composing. Certainly I did my share of row tables and pitch-class set analyses. After over 50 years in the music field just don't find the concepts (and they are old now) as productive as I used to.

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  19. #45
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    Yes I agree with your comments about Wagner and tonality; also, thanks for bringing up the example of Parsifal, Act 3 especially the Prelude. I saw the live streaming of the Gatti-conducted 2013 Met production on the wide screen and it was extraordinarily moving.

    Personally, I find some atonal and serial compositions excellent and they have influenced my composing. Certainly I did my share of row tables and pitch-class set analyses. After over 50 years in the music field just don't find the concepts (and they are old now) as productive as I used to.
    Thanks. It's good to hear from another person with nuts-and-bolts musical experience concerning the issues raised in this conversation.

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