Dissertation Index

Author: Burkett, Lyn Ellen Thornblad

Title: Tensile Involvement: Counterpoint and Compositional Pedagogy in the Work of Seeger, Hindemith, and Krenek

Institution: Indiana University

Begun: February 1998

Completed: April 2001


Charles Seeger (1886-1979), Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), and Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) all recognized the potential for traditional Fuxian counterpoint to serve as a vehicle for musical experimentation in post-tonal idioms, and developed contrapuntal principles in the course of their creative and pedagogical work. Their writings on counterpoint are distinct from traditional stylistic counterpoint texts in that pedagogical presentations were developed before or during the time that corresponding styles of music were written. The structure and stability provided by the framework of Fuxian counterpoint enabled the three composers to share new compositional approaches with a generation of aspiring young composers.

My study focuses on each of the three composer/theorists as teachers of composition. I examine Charles Seeger's practice of dissonating traditional forms, and his student, Ruth Crawford Seeger's applications of his dissonant contrapuntal principles in her compositions Piano Study in Mixed Accents and Diaphonic Suite No. 1. Hindemith's compositional work procedure in his teaching pieces and in-class compositions, as well as his integration of his own conception of consonance and dissonance with tonal and pre-tonal theory and practice, are discussed in detail. My interpretation of Krenek's Studies in Counterpoint in light of the composer's Catholicism depicts the twelve-tone series presented in stages of manifestation, abstraction, and incorporealization.

In addition to examining Seeger's dissonant counterpoint, Hindemith's freely tonal counterpoint, and Krenek's twelve-tone counterpoint, I situate each composer/theorist's work in contexts of early twentieth-century theory and composition, late twentieth-century theory and analysis, and pre-nineteenth-century musical thought. By viewing their work in a number of different contexts, I portray the tensile involvements between approaches to music theory, composition, and pedagogy in the past, present, and future that shaped their work as teachers, composers, and theorists.

Keywords: history of music theory, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Ludus Tonalis




I. Making up their own rules
Post-Tonal Counterpoint

II. A Vision and a vista
Charles Seeger, Ruth Crawford, and Dissonant Counterpoint

III. At that moment there was counterpoint
Hindemith and Freely Tonal Counterpoint

IV. The faithful listen in
Krenek and Twelve-Tone Counterpoint

V. Scrivo in vento
The Treatises in Context(s)

Appendix A
Selected Writings by Seeger, Hindemith, and Krenek,
Listed According to Topic

Appendix B
Piano Study in Mixed Accents:
Anomalies and Discrepancies in the Palindrome



Lyn Ellen Thornblad Burkett
406 Swan Street
Potsdam, NY 13676

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