Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Harmonic Syntax in Edvard Grieg's Lyric Pieces
by Vanderbeek, Layne, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2020, 244; 27744279
Abstract (Summary)

Edvard Grieg’s works are often cast as the work of a nationalist composer on the outskirts of Continental developments of musical importance. His harmonic innovations are largely unappreciated and unacknowledged. His musical works, often considered trite and folkish, have not garnered much attention from music theorists. This study finds that his Lyric Pieces, which span the majority of his creative life as a composer, offer fertile ground for exploring innovative harmonic syntactical construction within highly traditional confines. Some of these Lyric Pieces can challenge our sense of what constitutes normative functional harmonic analysis. Grieg’s music can plausibly be analyzed as an adaptation of dualist Continental philosophical and music theoretical approaches, firmly placing him at the forefront of Western European musical development rather than at the outskirts.

This study begins by observing how Grieg constructs cadences to establish the parameters of his harmonic syntax. Building off of that harmonic foundation, we then explore how Grieg constructs his harmonic syntax within his musical phrases, sections, and entire works. Of great advantage to this study is Grieg’s regular adherence to traditional form, even when he articulates those forms in innovative ways. Grieg’s adherence to standard musical forms allows for clear understanding of the alterations in harmonic syntax that he employs. The chapters move methodically through the construction of cadences, phrases, sections, and entire pieces to illustrate Grieg’s harmonic syntax and wide range of musical variety within straight forward musical forms.

This study serves, in some sense, as a dualist approach to the harmonic analysis of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. Dualism was important in 19th Century German education, philosophy, and musical composition, as the result of two distinct kinds of musical thinking; (1) minor mode is the inverse of major and (2) Plagal harmony is complementary to functional harmony. Grieg’s Lyric Pieces show the influence of the second of these dualistic approaches. Grieg’s Lyric Pieces consistently explore the third, and least often emphasized, term in Western musical harmony, the Subdominant, and its relationship to Tonic rather than to Dominant. Certain of the Lyric Pieces articulate Tonic solely through opposition to Subdominant, falling into a two termed dualism comparable to the Dominant to Tonic relationship paradigmatic of most common-practice music. In other pieces, Grieg deploys both the Dominant and Subdominant with their own supporting phrases or formal sections to establish Tonic in complementary ways. Finally, in other works, a combination of both Subdominant and Dominant harmony appear in the articulation of Tonic.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Smith, Charles
Commitee: Moseley, Brian, Currie, James
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 81/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music theory, Music history, Musical composition
Keywords: Dualist philosophy, Grieg, Edvard lyric pieces, Music history, Music theory, Music theory Analysis, Scandinavian music, Lyric Pieces
Publication Number: 27744279
ISBN: 9798635247143
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