Dissertation Index

Author: Kleppinger, Stanley V

Title: Tonal Coherence in Copland's Music of the 1940s

Institution: Indiana University

Begun: September 2003

Completed: May 2006


Aaron Copland’s compositions of the 1940s present unique approaches to large-scale tonal organization. Particular pitch classes become central through their perceptual salience. In combination with one another and with surface-level pitch events these centers create a sense of contextually-defined tonal coherence.

The analyses in this study explore the tonal coherence of five Copland works: the first Allegro from Appalachian Spring, the finale of the Third Symphony, the three movements of the Sonata for Violin and Piano, Quiet City, and “Nature, the gentlest mother” from the Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. The Appalachian Spring excerpt organizes multiple tonal processes around two pitch centers, creating a tonal impetus for the climax of the Allegro. The Third Symphony’s finale adapts music from Fanfare for the Common Man, connecting surface-level thematic elements with shifts between pitch centers and their associated diatonic collections. These shifts are classified according to particular common tones shared by the collections. The finale’s linking of pitch centers, collections, and thematic materials manifests a tonal structure that parallels a motive from the Fanfare across the span of the movement. Analyses of the Sonata for Violin and Piano and Quiet City show contextually-driven ways in which the composer structures entire multi- and single-movement works. Finally, the tonal ambiguities and subtleties of “Nature, the gentlest mother” reflect the song’s poetic text and formal design.

Although the approach to tonal coherence is unique in each composition, subsequent comparison of the analyses highlights recurring features among these works’ methods of tonal organization. These shared features include the varying emphasis of notes, triads, or pitch centers related by interval class 5, the association of thematic identity with particular shifts in pitch centricity, the ramifications of ambiguity for the tonal organization of the work, and the use of abrupt shifts in centricity to call attention to impending elements of large-scale tonal structure.

Keywords: Aaron Copland, pitch centricity, tonality, Appalachian Spring, Third Symphony, Sonata for Violin and Piano, Quiet City, Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, tonal structure


Chapter 1: Introduction
Survey of Relevant Literature
Organization of this Study

Chapter 2: Analytic Issues
Analytic Principles
Small-Scale Examples of Analytic Methodology

Chapter 3: The First Allegro from Appalachian Spring
The Pandiatonic Exordium Melody
Functional Progressions
Quartal Trichords
Triadic T11 Chains
Motivic Links and a Transitional Passage
“Eden Valley” and Its Connections with the Coda

Chapter 4: The Finale of the Third Symphony
The Introduction’s Derivation from Fanfare for the Common Man
Fanfare for the Common Man and Its Fusion into the Third Symphony
A Classification Scheme for Tonal Shifts
Formal Overview
The Toccata Theme and SUBSUME
Tonal Structure and Motivic Parallelisms
The Rumba Theme and EMERGE
Interruption and Reconciliation using ISOLATE
The Transcendent Hymn Theme
Formal/Tonal Interactions and Conclusion

Chapter 5: The Sonata for Violin and Piano
Summary of Tonal Issues
The First Movement
The Second Movement
The Third Movement
Synthesis of the Three Movements

Chapter 6: Quiet City
Background and Formal Overview
The Opening “Urban Pastoral”
The First “Nostalgia” Section
The “Dotted-Note Figure” Section
The “Dirge” Section
The Climax
Reprises of “Nostalgia” and “Urban Pastoral” Sections

Chapter 7: “Nature, the gentlest mother” from Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson
Issues of Overall Pitch Centricity
Further Correspondences between the Song’s Sections

Chapter 8: Conclusions
Commonalities among Five 1940s Compositions
Avenues for Further Study

Selected Bibliography



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