Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/mtosmt/mtosmt.org/scripts/mtofunctions.php on line 313

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/mtosmt/mtosmt.org/scripts/mtofunctions.php on line 313
MTO 17.2: Heetderks, Aaron Copland’s Quiet City
 

A Tonal Revolution in Fifths and Semitones: Aaron Copland’s Quiet City

David J. Heetderks



KEYWORDS: Copland, Quiet City, Tonnetz, centricity, neo-tonal, geometric, symmetry, pitch space, pattern completion, pentatonic

ABSTRACT: Tonal ambiguity in Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, a feature frequently noted by critics, results from a radical reorganization of the constituent elements of tonality. Many sections of the work eschew triads and, in lieu of tonal progressions and key centers, the work shifts between referential collections and emphasizes pitches through salience. This paper creates a perfect fifth/semitone Tonnetz to model two of Quiet City’s most notable features: motives built from pentatonic subsets and semitonal shifts. The Tonnetz reveals isomorphisms between melodic motives and characteristic shifts between pitch-class collections, and it shows that climactic sections feature dramatic reversals of motion. Pattern completion—a voice-leading technique in which a missing note from a collection established as normative sounds conspicuously—articulates points of arrival and confirms central pitches. This analysis shows that Quiet City transforms the relations among the constituent elements of tonality in order to further explore the potential of the tonal system, an avowed aesthetic goal of Copland’s.

PDF text | PDF examples
Received September 2010
Volume 17, Number 2, July 2011
Copyright © 2011 Society for Music Theory