Dimitar Ninov

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Contemporary theoretical musicology, and especially its anglophone section, has been heavily influenced by the ideas and analytical methods of Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935) who was an Austrian. Schenkerian-inspired theory, once imported in the United States from Austria, spread widely on American soil, where it was “enriched” conceptually, and was then re-exported to Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and other English speaking countries. The old American school of harmony that stemmed from the best German, French, and Russian traditions, found itself pushed to the wall by the ever growing Schenkerian school of thought which was erecting a cult of his creator. A “new order” in harmony and analysis was gradually established that regarded tonality as a business between tonic and dominant alone, the rest of the chords being of peripheral importance. This mentality shut the door to diversity and freedom in functional thinking, and opened the door to highly biased harmonic and formal analyses which erased harmonic cadences, presented tonality in black and white, breached syntactical units to create a new way of hearing music (the so-called "distance hearing" or "structural hearing”), and inevitably ended up with the same fundamental structure in melody and harmony, named “Ursatz”. This essay discusses major defects of Schenkerian theory and their negative impact on traditional harmony and analysis.


Schenker, analysis, theory, harmony, structure

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