Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Heinrich Schenker’s Essential Voice: Tracing the Concept of an Essential Voice in Johann Sebastian Bach's Works for Solo Melodic Instruments
by Ketter, Daniel Marcel, Ph.D., University of Rochester, 2020, 255; 27829542
Abstract (Summary)

Heinrich Schenker’s theory of tonal voice leading is widely regarded for its ability to convey unique insight about common-practice tonal structure and composition. While the concept of an essential voice is implicit in Schenker’s theory of voice leading, he never directly addressed it. Without a broad formalization of the concept from Schenker, contemporary theorists provide inconsistent approaches that lead to competing interpretations and widely varying understanding of methodology. This thesis traces the latent concept of an essential voice in Schenker’s writings from Harmonielehre (1906) to Der freie Satz (1935) and provides analytical applications to the works of J. S. Bach—in particular his solo string works—to illustrate the value of the concept for contemporary Schenkerian theory.

Chapter 1 lays the groundwork for a discussion of the essential voice concept by considering historical approaches to the idea of compound melody along with those of contemporary theorists. By drawing comparisons between strict and free tonal counterpoint, Chapter 2 develops the concept of identity for an essential voice as expressed by its registral position and ordering within contrapuntal layers. Chapter 3 grounds the concept of continuity for an essential voice in Schenker’s mentally retained note and rehabilitates the status of pedal tones as intermediate prolongational entities, framing essential voices as transformed pedal tones. Chapter 4 establishes the relationship between essential voice analyses and the musical surface foreground by historical analogy to thoroughbass and diminution theory. By differentiating between recursive, non-recursive, and terminating voice leading transformations it locates the essential voice-leading analysis as a late stage in the Schenkerian process of generative analysis. Chapter 5 illustrates the economy and clarity of essential voice-leading analysis through application to the Sarabande from J. S. Bach’s Suite No. 5 in C minor for Solo Cello, BWV 1011. This concluding chapter emphasizes that the essential voice properties of identity and continuity are derived solely and uniquely from the function of essential voices in composing out Stufen.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brown, Matthew
Commitee: Marvin, William M., Samarotto, Frank
School: University of Rochester
Department: Eastman School of Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 81/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music theory
Keywords: Cello suites, Essential voice, Heinrich Schenker, Johann Sebastian Bach, violin sonatas and partitas, voice leading
Publication Number: 27829542
ISBN: 9798644901869
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