Dissertation Diary 2015-10-15

This week was a light week, for which I am quite grateful: adjusting to a school schedule is leaving me constantly exhausted. I wrote a couple pages on Stufentheorie on Tuesday and did some reading this morning. I also started collecting my thoughts on the later 19th century and Riemann, because I have a feeling that next week (schedule says “Riemann and friends”) will be the largest chunk of the chapter I’m working on before midterm.

Thought of the day from Tuesday:
You know you’ve grown as a writer when you remember a source from a previous iteration of your project (say, 2008) and get excited to go back and read it, only to write in your notes: “this writing is kinda really terrible.”

Here’s what I drafted on Tuesday:


In many ways, I often position Functional Analysis as being an alternative to Roman numerals, or see them as being in opposition. It is not so much that Roman Numerals are wrong, per say, it’s just that they’re inefficient. I actually consider Roman numerals and Stufentheorie as part of the historical functional lineage.

After Rameau, there were several theorists who used some manner of numerals (Roman or Arabic) to label the roots of a Fundamental Bass progression in relation to a scale.[1] However, Georg Abbe Vogler is generally acknowledged as one of the first scholars to use Roman numerals consistently to describe the root of a chord in relation to a scale, and as the predecessor of today’s harmonic analysis.[2] Vogler also used the concept of Mehrdeutigkeit to understand modulation – that a single sonority could mean VI in one key, but II in another.[3]

The theorist that most demonstrates the link between Stufentheorie and functional thought is Gottfried Weber, who tries to explain harmony functionally with the resources at his disposal in Versuch eine geordneten Theorie der Tonsetzkunst.[4] He believed that theory depends on practice, and was most concerned with describing what was happening in music of his day.[5] His additions and adjustments to Stufentheorie were exceedingly popular and immediately plagiarized, including the use of small and larger letters to indicate major vs minor quality.[6]

Most importantly he was one of the first conceptualize modulation and tonicization.[7] Our current understanding of applied chords and pivot modulations are descended from Weber. While today we distinguish between modulation and tonicization, Weber describes them as the same thing; his “digressions” are shown in terms of Verwandschaft – closeness to tonic – based on closely related keys.[8] He showed which keys are most closely related with a Tonnetz[9] originally described by Leonhard Euler (citation?). The idea that certain progressions of chords (such as V-I) imply a new key shows the beginnings of function.

Other ideas that Weber originated that I still find useful include the concept of viiº7 as the V9 missing its root and the idea that there are primary chords to a key (I V or V7, and IV).[10] Weber’s treatise was widely translated and spread in the second half of the 19th Century.[11] One of his nachkommer was Ernst Richter, who I will cover in Section 2.?. Another who took Weber’s ideas and re-formed them was Simon Sechter, who is often noted as a forerunner of Schönberg and Schenker, who I will come to in Sections 2.? and 2.? respectively.[12]

[1] Damschroder, thinking about harmony, 1-5.

[2] Bernstein, CHOWMUT “Nineteenth Century Harmonic Theory,” 780.

[3] Bernstein, 781.

[4] Janna Saslaw, “Weber, (Jacob) Gottfried,” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, (Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[5] Bernstein, 782.

[6] Cho, 30.

[7] Saslaw.

[8] Bernstein, 784.

[9] Bernstein, 786.

[10] Bernstein, 783; Damschroder 11-12.

[11] Bernstein, 787

[12] Bernstein, 788.

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