Dissertation Index

Author: Boland, Marguerite M

Title: The All-Trichord Hexachord: Compositional Strategies in Elliott Carter's "Con Leggerezza" and "Gra".

Institution: La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Begun: March 1995

Completed: December 1999


The central objective of the thesis is to develop ways of understanding Elliott Carter's approach to pitch organization and in particular his use of the All-Trichord Hexachord (ATH) in "Con leggerezza Pensosa" and "Gra". The first chapter sets out some analytical problems associated with pitch analysis of Carter's music and then turns to Carter's own comments on his musical aims, translating them into compositional techniques. An analytical approach is developed in which it is argues that the pitch organization in Carter's music is the result not of the application of a single pitch system, but rather of a general compostional aesthetic in which pitch, rhythm and texture combine to create varying degrees of sonic cohesion.

The second chapter presents a detailed analysis of "Con Leggerezza Pensosa", segmenting the piece according to a number of textural divisions and associated harmonic materials. It illustrates how the ATH creates a clear harmonic focus in maximally cohesive textures and then recedes or vanishes in textures where musical streams are more differentiated.

By contrast, "Gra" makes use of the ATH as a single source for the entire pitch material of the piece. Although the ATH is used differently in "Gra", the subsequent analysis consolidates the analytical approach to pitch developed above. It is argued that choice of set succession, registral distribution, partitioning and large-scale disposition of pitch class sets are still determined by the interaction of pitch, rhythm and textural structures rather than properties of the ATH alone. As in "Con Leggerezza Pensosa", the analysis of "Gra" illustrates how the overall musical syntax is based on varying degrees of sonic cohesion.

Keywords: pitch, analysis, Elliott Carter, all-trichord hexachord


1. Defining an Analytical Approach to Carter’s Pitch Organization
1.1 Unifying Harmonies: Some Analytical Considerations
1.2 Aspects of Carter’s Compositional Aesthetic
1.3 Strategies for Pitch Organization
1.4 Carter’s use of the All-Trichord Hexachord as ‘Key Chord’
2. Functions of the All-Trichord Hexachord in “Con Leggerezza Pensosa”
2.1 Formal Design: The All-Trichord Hexachord in the Context of Textural/Rhythmic Structures
2.2 The ATH at Points of Sonic Cohesion
2.3 The Role of Aggregate Formation in ‘Degrees of Cohesion’
2.4 Dissolution of the ATH
2.5 Conclusion: The ATH and its interaction with Multiple Structures
3. All-Trichord Hexachord Saturation in “Gra”
3.1 Formal design and Character-types in “Gra”
3.2 The “Field of Operations” in the Opening Passage
3.3 Expansion of the Legato Character-type
3.4 ATH-invarient Features in the Closing Passage
3.5 Contrasting “Patterns of Action”
4. Conclusion


Marguerite Boland

Date Listed: 03/10/2007

     Return to dissertations