Dissertation Index

Author: Laurence Sinclair Willis

Title: When Materials Collide: Formal Interplay in Teernary Piano Works of the Late Nineteenth Century

Institution: McGill University

Begun: September 2013

Completed: November 2019


This dissertation accounts for the ways that musical materials (motivic, harmonic, and rhythmic) of the various sections of a ternary late romantic piano works may be heard to influence one another. To explore these patterns, I first explain the current theorizing around late nineteenth-century short
piano works, with particular emphasis the research of Ryan McClelland, Ann Besser Scott, Allen Cadwallader, and Edward T. Cone in regard to Johannes Brahms. I then describe ternary form in detail with reference to theorists such as William E. Caplin, Wallace Berry, and Heinrich Schenker. To describe how various musical materials may relate to one another across a work, I explore two musical techniques, transfer and compensation, with the aid of classical style musical examples. Transfer comes about when we hear some materials associated with one section (such as a particular harmonic construction, motivic unit, or expression of meter) reappear in a contrasting section. Compensation accounts for relationships between sections not expressed through transfer. Usually, compensation takes the form of a musical “problem” being proposed early in a work, which the final section somehow “solves.” I develop a set of paradigms for the interpretation of trans-sectional effects in short pianos works. These paradigms act both as common patterns for ternary form and as interpretive stances from which to analyze short works. I explain my paradigms through analytical examples drawn from the piano compositions of Brahms, Max Reger, Gabriel Fauré, Alexandr Scriabin, Ottorino Respighi, and Gian Francesco Malipiero spanning the years 1892–1916. In the final chapter, I reflect on the relationship between my paradigms and recent theoretical debates surrounding concepts of unity in analysis and I then suggest new directions for my research into Lieder and atonal genres.

Keywords: Romantic, Brahms, Reger, Form, Ternary, Transfer, Compensation


Introduction; Ternary Form; The Techniques of Balance; Paradigms of Ternary Composition; Coda Reminiscence; Unifying Returns; Subsidiary Paradigms; Compensation in Ternary Composition; Compensatory Returns; Theme, Sonata? Neither?; Ternary Form in Brahms's Op. 116, No. 4; Balance, Unity, and Other Music; Appendix A; Appendix B



     Return to dissertations