Second Viennese School (VII) – Suite for Piano Op. 25 (1)

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As mentioned in the last post, Mosaic Polyphony is a method for analyzing 12-tone music. This post includes the rhythmic and harmonic analysis of three first measure of Schoenberg’s Prelude from Suite Op. 25 according to the text I am reading these days. The importance of rhythmic analysis becomes bolder by considering that actually rhythm plays a crucial role in formal structure of this music.

First comes some explanation which helps the reader finding the relation between letters and numbers in the two upper photos:

W1: the order-number mosaic

M1: pitch-class mosaic

“In each row, W1 groups together the pitch-class dyads of M1, in different positions, but in a manner consistent with W1 over both rows. Since P0 and P6 project the same pitch-class dyads in different positions and different orders, the mosaic already suggests certain rhythmic and formal implications for the music’s discourse.” (Kurth, P.190)

“antecedent-consequent” will refer to structures in a single individual dyad stratum, while the special locution “ANTecedent-CONsequent” will refer to more complex and developed structures among two or more dyad strata in combination.” (Kurth, P.193)

The tritones {G,Db}, {Db,G}, {D,G#}, {Ab,D} used in both P0 and P6 are all enharmonic tritones used with different rhythmic patterns and proportions. However the melodic contour in {G4,Db5} and {Db3,G3} is ascending and in {Ab4,Dd} and {D3,G#2(Ab2)} is descending and the register differentiation of these figures creates a kind of balance among them. Moreover, The span between D4 and Db5 equals the span between G#2 and G3, as if <G4,Db5,Ab4,D4> (ANTecedent)is answered by <Db3,G3,D3,G#2> (CONsequent). Also, all these figures contain the rhythmic value of a dotted quarter note, which, in some cases, is completed by a following rest. By observing this passage more carefully, we witness that the dyad {Bb3,Cb4} (especially the note Bb3, which appears at the beginning as well as the end of the passage in measure 3) works as a core, that ANTecedent and CONsequent appear in different inverted versions about this dyad.  and so the harmonic and rhythmic symmetry is obvious in this passage. These balanced passages (in terms of rhythms, pitch and register), flow in between a rather freer rhythmic (but still following the dotter quarter pattern) gestures appearing in measures 1-3.

The other recurring figure appearing 4 times in this passage consists of these dyads: {Gb4,Eb4}, {C3,A2}, {F#2(Gb2),Eb2}, {C4,A3}. By considering {Gb4,Eb4} as antecedent and {F#2,Eb2} as consequent (since they are enharmonic), the echo quality of {F#2,Eb2}, especially since it has appeared in a lower register than {Gb4,Eb4} with a lower dynamic, and lower rhythmic value, will be revealed. The rhythmic correspondence between these two figures is looser. In opposition, {C3,A2} is answered by higher-registered and louder {C4,A3} on the exactly similar rhythmic attack, which delivers a strong relation between two figures. Another kind of grouping can be observed in this passage which considers <Gb3,Eb4,C4,A3> as ANTecedent and <C3,A2,F#2(=Gb2),Eb2> as CONsequent which is enveloped by ANTecedent. ANTecedent is derived from P0, and CONsequent from P6 and the registers of these two groups are totally independent from each other, but within each group the close-position between two figures is considered by the composer. And as in the previous analyzed passage which was placed around the figure (Bb,Cb), in this passage the appearance of the  figure {E5,F5} at the beginning of the piece, creates a perfect symmetry between these two passages.

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