Dissertation Index

Author: Rifkin, Deborah

Title: Tonal Coherence in Prokofiev's Music: A Study of the Interrelationships of Structure, Motives, and Design

Institution: Eastman School of Music

Completed: April 2000


Prokofiev has written some of the most widely-admired music in the twentieth- century, including Peter and the Wolf, The Love for Three Oranges, and Lieutenant Kije. His distinctive compositional style can be recognized easily by its quirky turns of phrases and unexpected harmonies, which have been called "wrong notes" by many scholars.

Integrating "wrong notes" into a theory of musical coherence has been problematic for scholars. Using the term "wrong" seems to imply that these chromatic excursions are incorrect substitutes for the "right notes," which would be notes that conform to conventional tonal expectations. Most studies interpret Prokofiev's music as tonal, yet they relegate the "wrong notes" to an insignificant structural status. Other analyses consider "wrong notes" integral elements of an atonal structure and approach wrong-note music using pitch-class set analysis. This dissertation proposes a third analytic perspective. It demonstrates how Prokofiev's supposedly "wrong- note" passages, rather than being anomalous to a tonal structure, instead actively participate in tonal coherence.

One reason "wrong notes" challenge tonal theories of coherence is because they cannot be represented within a hierarchical system. The dissertation explores an alternative means of representation, a network model, which can accommodate non-hierarchical musical associations. Using a network model not only accommodates wrong notes, but it also better represents Schenkerian analytic practice. In addition to non-hierarchical prolongation techniques and wrong-note harmonic functions, networks can also represent relationships created by motives and design. Chapter Two discusses motives, differentiating between strongly and weakly tonal ones. Whether dependent or independent of their tonal context, however, motives help create relationships that make a supposedly "wrong note" belong in the music. While Chapters One and Two concentrate on pitch aspects of wrong-note music, the third chapter prioritizes non-pitch attributes. Chapter Three discusses formal and surface designs and their impact on the perception of a note as wrong.

Overall, Prokofiev's music can be best described using tonal networks that can represent corroborating and conflicting relationships between structure, motives, and design.

Keywords: coherence, Prokofiev, structure, motive, design, hierarchy, network, Schenker, wrong notes


Chapter 1: Wrong-Note Structures
Chapter 2: Pitch Motives, Networks, and Wrong Notes
Chapter 3: Design and Wrong-Note Music
Chapter 4: The Range of Coherence: Analytic Studies


Deborah Rifkin
tel: +1 831-689-9260

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