Author: Berry, David Carson
Title: Stravinsky's "Skeletons": Reconnoitering the Evolutionary Paths from Variation Sets to Serialism
Institution: Yale University
Begun: December 1998
Completed: March 2002
Igor Stravinsky's (1882-1971) eight theme-and-variation sets are stylistically quite diverse, and many of the variations initially seem to have oblique relations to their themes. How, then, might one describe his techniques? The composer himself summarized them by saying that he regarded a theme as a "melodic skeleton." But in what ways can this metaphor be interpreted? Following foundational comments in Chapter 1, each of the next four chapters demonstrates a distinct way in which Stravinsky's "melodic skeletons" are instantiated in variation sets. I consider not only the topical procedures themselves, but also their precedents in the history of Western music, and interpretive strategies appropriate to them.
In Chapter 2, I explore isomelism, a process by which an established (thematic) pc sequence is maintained, allowing for possible transposition, but rhythms and register/contour can vary. In Chapter 3, I explore cardinal-event relations, a process by which the "essential" elements (or motives) of an established pc sequence retain their ordering while less-essential events are deleted or new events are interpolated in between. In Chapter 4, I explore pc-event invariances, a process by which the pc-specific "events" of a musical passage (its motives, harmonies, etc.) are retained in their general, individual forms, but are recombined to fashion an ostensibly "new" structure. In Chapter 5, I consider new possibilities for variation practice that emerged within Stravinsky's serial works, due to his derivation of pitch materials by tracing various pathways through rotational-transpositional arrays. What the derived sets have in common is their networks of internal interrelations. As this foundational similarity is based on the systemic dispositions of these groups, it will be termed a systemorphic relation.
Finally, because certain attributes of composing with "skeletons" is evocative of serial practices, and because Stravinsky turned to serialism late in life, Chapter 6 offers the dissertation's illation, in which I argue that the techniques that formed the foundation of Stravinsky's theme-and-variation practice were also an ideal basis for primary characteristics of his serial practice. My interpretations proceed in accordance with a concept from evolutionary biology termed "preadaptation," which posits that form and function do not necessarily undergo changes of the same magnitude. I.e., variation techniques may come to function as serial techniques, with the conservation of many systemic attributes.
Keywords: Stravinsky, variation, serialism, rotational arrays, evolution
VOL. I (Text):
Conventions of this Dissertation.
Chapter I: Introduction.
Chapter II: Isomelism.
Chapter III: Cardinal-Event Relations.
Chapter IV: Pc-Event Invariances.
Chapter V: Rotational-Array Pathways and Systemorphic Variations.
Chapter VI: New Uses for Old Bones: The Evolutionary Paths from Skeletons to Serialism.
VOL. II (Figures)
Yale University, Dept. of Music
143 Elm St. / P.O. Box 208310
New Haven, CT 06520-8310