Stravinsky Retrospectives

By Ethan Haimo; Paul Johnson | Go to book overview

PROBLEMS OF HIERARCHY IN Stravinskys OCTET

ETHAN HAIMO | University of Notre Dame

Some idea of the extent of the conceptual problems posed by Stravinsky's "centric music" can be gauged from the number of markedly different theoretical approaches that have been advanced to explain this repertoire.1 Some of the earliest writers, noting both the superficial similarities with tonal practice and the evident divergence from that practice, suggested a number of terms (bitonality, pantonality, modality, pandiatonicism) that they felt might capture the essence of the Stravinsky style.2 In an attempt to account for the seemingly stable function of nontriadic elements, Travis postulated the existence of a referential sonority that substitutes for the tonic triad and that is articulated through time by techniques analogous to those of tonal music.3 Boretz suggested that some pieces are best thought of as lacking a tonic and instead proposed that they be viewed in terms of a reference tetrachord or hexachord ("construct centric").4 Still others ( Salzer, Forte) extended Schenkerian analysis to include Stravinsky's works.5 Berger and after him van den Toorn have directed attention to various collections that they portray

The term "centric" was applied by Berger to describe music that is "centric (i.e. organized in terms of a tone center) but not tonally functional." Arthur Berger, "Problems of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky", Perspectives of New Music 2 no. I ( 1963): II; reprinted in Boretz and Cone, eds., Perspectives on Schoenberg and Stravinsky, rev. ed. ( New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), p. 123. Further citations are to the reprint.

Paul Collaer, A History of Modern Music, translated by Sally Abeles ( New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1961), pp. 137-39; Roman Vlad, Stravinsky, trans. Frederick, 3d ed. ( London: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 12-18.

Roy Travis, "Toward a New Concept of Tonality"? Journal of Music Theory 3 ( 1959):257-66.

Benjamin Boretz, "Meta- Variations, Part IV: Analytic Fallout (II)", Perspectives of New Music II, no. 2 ( 1973):167-75.

Allen Forte, Contemporary Tone Structures ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), pp. 128-38 and 187-92; Felix Salzer, Structural Hearing ( New York: Dover, 1962), Vol. 2, pp. 234-37. Travis, pp. 257-66, employs Schenkerian reductions.

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