Dissertation Index

Author: Biamonte, Nicole V

Title: The Modes in Romantic Music

Institution: Yale University

Begun: September 1994

Completed: March 1998


A number of 19th-century works, while fundamentally tonal, incorporate elements of modality. Various Romantic impulses contributed to this reawakening of the modes: the historicist preoccupation with the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and an accompanying interest in older religious music; a growing regard for folk music, rooted in primitivism and the cult of nature, in nationalism, and in post-Revolution egalitarianism. The role of these ideas in the other arts is briefly discussed. A purely musical reason for the renewal of interest in the modes, the perceived need for an expansion of major-minor tonality, is explored in more depth.

I examine the influence of these impulses in the music of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Chopin, and others, analyzing the forms assumed by mode in the 19th century: harmonizations of a modal melody, whether tonal, modal, or some combination of the two; the construct known as "modal harmony," comprising diatony with an emphasis on secondary triads; and incorporation of a single element of a mode--for example, the "Dorian sixth," and whether this is sufficient to qualify a work as modal, or is merely a temporary modal inflection. I hope to develop a theoretical framework for mode in a harmonic context, and to determine the relationship of modal harmony to earlier modal theory and to harmonic tonality.

Keywords: mode, modality, modal theory, modal harmony, Romantic, 19th-century, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Chopin


1: Romantic Ideas
Classic vs. Romantic; Historicism; Religion; Mysticism; Primitivism;
Egalitarianism; Nationalism; Harmonic Expansion

2: On the Modes
Middle Ages; Renaissance; 17th Century; Mode as a Pedagogical
Tool; Romantic Era; Mode in a Harmonic Context; Mode as "Other"

3: Beethoven
Musical Education; Missa Solemnis; 9th Symphony finale; Heiliger

4: Schumann
Musical Education; "Auf Einer Burg"; Folksongs for Cello and
Piano; G minor Piano Trio

5: Brahms
Musical Education; "Von ewiger Liebe"; "Vergangen ist mir Glueck
und Heil"; Intermezzo Op. 76 No 7; 4th Symphony slow movement;
F minor Clarinet Sonata

6: Other Composers
Schubert ("Der Koenig in Thule"); Chopin (Mazurka Op. 41 No. 1); others

7: Conclusion


Nicole Biamonte
87 Turtle Bay
Branford, CT 06405
email: nicole.biamonte@yale.edu
phone: (203) 488-9621
fax: (203) 483-1897

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