Dissertation Index

Author: Harley, Konrad

Title: Harmonic Function in the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

Institution: University of Toronto

Begun: September 2010

Completed: April 2014


This dissertation examines aspects of harmonic function in the music of Sergei Prokofiev. Chapter 1 provides a survey of music theory literature on Prokofiev’s music—including many Russian studies—and discusses the theoretical underpinnings of my analytical approach. Chapter 2 deals with Prokofiev’s uses of symmetry and inversion in tonal plans and harmonic progressions, emphasizing the importance of perfect-fifth-related harmonic alternatives and long series of perfect fifths in works in what Prokofiev called his “classical line.” The central topic of Chapter 3 is sequential harmony. This subdivides into discussions of Prokofiev’s characteristic use of brief linking chords that clearly express dominant function; long, structural, but “obscure” dominants; plagal sequential trajectories in which a written-out ritardando seems to compensate for the lack of a culminating D-T relation; and directional changes (“volte-faces”) signalling the end of sequential passages. Chapter 4 considers questions of harmonic function in light of ladovaia peremennost’ (modal variability) and tonal pairing, which for Prokofiev is typically major-third-based; the discussion extends to a variety of harmonic techniques involving reinterpretation, substitution, or redirection by major third. In Chapter 5, the focus shifts to the semitone. Investigating the harmonic-functional implications of events commonly referred to as chromatic displacements, I suggest that the concept of chromatic substitution is often of limited value and explore some of the ways in which harmonic-functional balance and tonal closure arise in spite of (or in some sense due to) these events. Chapter 6 offers a conclusion and suggestions for future research, emphasizing the value of studying Prokofiev’s harmonic practice in relation to nineteenth-century precedents (rather than to the Classical style), highlighting some of the harmonic techniques and tonal strategies that cut across the conventional boundaries of Prokofiev’s biography and oeuvre, and re-evaluating the ways in which certain traditional tonal principles are relevant even to Prokofiev’s idiosyncratic “modern line.”

Keywords: Prokofiev, harmonic function, Russian music, peremennost\', tonal pairing, chromatic displacement.


Chapter 1: Survey of analytical literature on Prokofiev and overview of the dissertation
I. The “Prokofiev dominant” and Prokofiev’s relation to Russian musical traditions; general characteristics of Prokofiev’s harmony
II. Schenkerian analysis, prototypes and “wrong notes,” set theory and “neotonality”
III. Overview of the dissertation

Chapter 2: Harmonic-functional balance and the “classical line”
I. Symmetry and harmonic function in two themes
II. Symmetry and harmonic function in two pieces
III. Parallel perfect intervals and series of fifths in three sonata-form first movements
IV. Palindromic schemes and series of fifths in a “modernist” work
V. Conclusion

Chapter 3: Sequential harmony and harmonic function
I. Sequential approaches to the tonic harmony of returning main themes
II. Triadic arpeggiation and equal division
1. Introduction
2. Major-third sequences
3. Minor-third sequences
III. The volte-face technique
IV. Conclusion

Chapter 4: Harmonic function in the context of ladovaia peremennost’ and tonal pairing
I. Minor-third peremennost’ and tonal pairing
II. Major-third peremennost’ and tonal pairing
III. Reinterpretation, substitution, and redirection upward by major third
IV. Conclusion

Chapter 5: Semitone relations and harmonic function
I. Prokofiev’s relation to nineteenth-century chromatic traditions and the interpretation of chromatic displacement in his music
II. The idea of balance: semitonal shifts within four tonally closed periods
III. Upward chromatic displacement
IV. Downward chromatic displacement
V. Conclusion

Chapter 6: Conclusion and suggestions for future research
I. General comments on analytical approaches to Prokofiev’s music
II. Modality from a harmonic-functional perspective; the “dominant mode” concept and other Russian music
III. Harmonic function and inversional symmetry
IV. Tonal imbalance, “lost” tonics, and Prokofiev’s “new simplicity”
V. Interlocking chords, unresolving suspensions, and related issues
VI. Conclusion



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