Dissertation Index

Author: Rupprecht, Philip, E.

Title: Tonal Stratification and Conflict in the Music of Benjamin Britten

Institution: Yale University

Begun: October 1990

Completed: November 1993


This theoretical study explores tonal instability in Britten's music via analytic readings of six works. Tonal stratification describes a division of registral space into discrete layers--strata--each associated with a recognizably independent functional-tonal process. Conflict in Britten's music is felt as a clash of opposing focal pitches. Salient pitch dualisms undermine the security of key definition associated with triadic monotonality. A wide registral gap between strata dismantles the harmonic integration of voices over a bass. Chapter 1 surveys tonal conflict in earlier styles, and in polytonality. Analyses of the song "London" (1965) and Noye's Fludde (1957) explore the role of tonal prolongation in stratified textures. Chapters 2-5 treat four works in detail. In Billy Budd (1951), chromatic tonal uncertainty (a B/Bb dualism) affects foreground motivic detail and larger linear motions. Triadic dualisms in the 1963 Nocturnal for guitar are read in light of symbolic tensions in the work's poetic source. Linear-analytic readings here replace the conventional consonance/dissonance dyad with a register-specific intervallic model (congruency/discrepancy) to capture the equivocal nature of harmonic relations between registers. Analysis of "Die Heimat" (1958) examines formal articulations in a song whose counterpoint of strata appears only loosely coordinated. The multivalent textural interactions in the 1962 War Requiem grow from a precarious tension between the axial centricity of the C/F# Bell-tritone and the vestigial gravitational force of D minor.

Keywords: stratification, texture, tonality, register, prolongation, uncertainty, bitonality, dualism, inversion, conflict


Chapter 1: Tonal Stratification and the definition of musical conflict
Chapter 2: Tonal Stratification and Uncertainty: The Billy Budd Prologue
Chapter 3: Tonality and the Presence of the Past: The Nocturnal after John
Chapter 4: Synchronicity of Process in a Stratified Texture
Chapter 5: Conflict as Premise: The First Movement of the War Requiem
(327 text pages)


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