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On the Perception of Early Atonal Music: Finding
Musical Meaning in the Work of Anton von
University of Connecticut - Storrs
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Schmieding, Jonathan, "On the Perception of Early Atonal Music: Finding Musical Meaning in the Work of Anton von Webern"
(2013). Holster Scholar Projects. 13.
On the Perception of Early Atonal Music:
Finding Musical Meaning in the Work of Anton von Webern
Dr. Kenneth Fuchs (Adviser)
Concepts and Terms
One: On the Music of Anton von Webern
Development of Musical Ideas
Melody and Harmony
Two: Shadows of our Past: A Compositional Analysis
Three: The Recording Process
Appendix One: Score Examples
Appendix Two: Shadows of our Past
Appendix Three: Musical Works Referenced
Appendix Four: Who I Worked With
Bach Werke Verzeichnis (Trans. Bach Works Catalogue)
Common Practice Era (ca. 1600-1900)
Plural of measure
Opus or work
Plural of opus
Titles of Works
For the purpose of brevity, all of Webern’s catalogued works will be indicated by their
opus number. Non-catalogued works will be identified by the title of the piece followed by the
year of completion in parentheses. If a single movement of a piece is being referenced, the
number of the movement, represented by a roman numeral, will follow the opus number and a
slash. For instance, the second movement of opus 20 will be abbreviated Op. 20/ii.
The bodies of work written by W.A. Mozart and J.S. Bach are not catalogued using the
opus system. Works by Bach will be identified by their BWV number (ex. Prelude in C minor,
BWV 847). Likewise, works by Mozart will be identified by their Köchel cataloguing number
(ex. Mozart Quintet in A major for Clarinet and Strings, K581).
The Second Viennese School created a great controversy among music theorists and
critics throughout the twentieth century. Arnold Schönberg’s twelve-tone musical system
polarized the musical community irrevocably. The works produced by Schönberg and his
students, namely Alban Berg and Anton von Webern, have been discarded by many as
unemotional music based on a purely mathematical system. Many performers refuse to perform
works composed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In fact, it seems as if the trend of
unified musical growth and development was stymied during the last century. The influence of
the Second Viennese School played a pivotal role in this trend. However, the integrity of tonal
music had been deteriorating for nearly a century.
Western music had been controlled by the relationship between two opposing forces: the
tonic and the dominant. The dominant almost always led to the tonic, at which arrival the ear
had been trained to feel a sense of ease. Tension and release has been at the heart of western
music for centuries. The longer the arrival to the tonic is withheld, the greater the tension. The
composer had the artistic freedom to manipulate this relationship, creating a series of
expectations for the listener. By delaying or deceiving these expectations, great composers of
the early CPE were able to hold the listener’s attention. Haydn and Mozart were noted masters
of this early practice.
As the early nineteenth century arrived, Beethoven began to stretch these harmonic rules
yet a little further, while still ending his works with emphatic cadences: dominant to tonic,
dominant to tonic, and again. In 1839, Hector Berlioz completed his Romeo and Juliet, laying
the framework on which Richard Wagner would base his opera Tristan und Isolde (completed
1859). The opening of this opera contains no hint of a tonic or dominant for minutes, only to
resolve deceptively to a false tonic. This work alone tore away at the fabric of tonality as early
as the 1850s.
The late nineteenth century brought about Strauss and Debussy. The latter’s work,
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1892) introduces an entirely new melodic system, the
whole-tone scale. This scale consists of six equidistant tones in each octave, compared to the
asymmetric major and minor diatonic scales that nearly all prior Western music had been based
on. Strauss’s tone poems, including Death and Transfiguration (1889) go for great stretches of
time before finally resolving to the tonic. In fact, Death and Transfiguration does not return to
the tonic until the finale of the piece, spanning approximately eighteen minutes of increased
tension and expectation.
The careers of Strauss and Debussy span into the twentieth century, at which time the
role of the tonic-dominant relationship has been drastically reduced. The leap from this state of
tonal music to removing the tonic-dominant relationship from music completely is not
unforeseeable. Webern’s student works are heavily influenced by Strauss’s work. For instance,
Webern’s Im Sommerwind (1904) presents a near-litany of Strauss’s early works. Soon, Webern
would begin studying under Arnold Schönberg, altering the course of Western music.
The work of the early twelve-tone composers, as well as many other atonal composers in
the early twentieth century, caused the musical community to ask serious questions about the
role of music. Many were not comfortable with the idea of music being mutually exclusive to
other forms of art or even other pieces of music. Does a piece of music need to be supplemented
in order to be meaningful? What in music defines meaning? Were atonal composers composing
for the sake of composing, or were they composing as a form of meaningful expression? Is the
notion that composers actively seek meaning in their own music a misled assumption held by
music enthusiasts? The work created by many composers of this era has been shunned by much
of the post-modern world. Perhaps it is time to take a closer look and allow ourselves to listen to
serial music with an open mind. For the mind cannot fully process what appears to be entirely
new, exposure and understanding are critical to the solution. Given time, the seemingly
senseless music will begin to sound coherent. It is both an issue of how to listen as well as of
what to listen for.
It is with this open mind that I began to study the work of Anton von Webern. Listening
to his Passacaglia, Op. 1 showed immediately that his body of work reflects a cross-section of
two musical eras. The first era is of the romantic composers, particularly Brahms and Strauss.
The other era is what would come as a product of Webern’s generation: serialism and atonality.
Webern was able to distinguish himself against many composers of that era, much as Stravinksy
and Hindemith did. Curiously, Webern’s name is often forgotten in the discussion of early
atonal music. This only enhances the misunderstanding surrounding Webern’s career.
What is often mistaken is the notion that Webern did not intend to create an entirely new
system, but rather draped his own harmonic language over classical forms. Despite lacking a
tonal center, he adheres to many characteristics of tonal music. Due to this approach, much of
Webern’s music comes across as horizontally lyrical. The vertical, or harmonic, writing is where
his music departs most significantly from the past.
My piece, Shadows of our Past aims to create a sense of journey while adhering to many
principles of serialism. The study of how Webern’s music reflects both serialism and pre-
twentieth century tonal music unveils under what circumstances a twelve-tone piece can be
aesthetically pleasing and musically meaningful. His decisions as a composer have helped guide
many of my decisions in the initial conception of my piece. By exploiting some of Webern’s
ideas fully, I aim to create a twelve-tone piece that invokes a sense of journey that I strive for in
my work. It is my goal to bring light to what has been darkened in our post-modern world and to
use the past as a tool in creating the future.
Concepts and Terms
The Harmonic Series, Consonance, and Dissonance
Scientific reasoning is able to explain the mechanics of tonal music. The source of the
tonic-dominant relationship can be found in the series of overtones produced by a fundamental
frequency: the harmonic series. In Western music, only the first five overtones are contained
within the equal-tempered chromatic scale.
A fundamental frequency produces harmonics located an octave higher. The second
harmonic sounds the interval of a fifth above the first harmonic, with the third harmonic
sounding two octaves above the fundamental. The fourth harmonic sounds two octaves and a
third higher than the fundamental, with the fifth harmonic sounding an octave above the first
harmonic. Each harmonic grows weaker and closer together, where the sixth harmonic is
somewhere between a minor third and a major second above the fifth harmonic. This tone is not
contained in the equal-tempered twelve-note system.
The interval of a fifth is prevalent in the harmonic series, provided the basis for the
dominant function in music. The overtones outline a major chord, with the root of the chord
being the fundamental frequency. This natural phenomenon creates the basis to our perception
of consonance and dissonance. In general, a consonant interval is an interval contained within
this lower portion of the harmonic series. The interval sounds even and lacks tension. A
dissonant interval is not contained within the harmonic series of the root, causing the notes and
their overtones to clash. This creates a tension that the listener wants to hear resolved to a
consonant interval. The relationship of consonance and dissonance is one of the primary
characteristics that provide a sense of direction in music when employed properly.
Pitch, Pitch Class, Pitch-class Sets, and Pitch-class Set Sizes1
The music of the early twentieth century, by nature, forces theorists to create an entirely
new system of musical analysis. There was no distinct tonal center to which the rest of a piece
could be compared to. In short, relativity in music was based solely on intervals within the
chromatic scale. There was no longer any attachment to a diatonic key, scale degrees, or triads
built upon scale degrees and their relationships to the scale. Music theorists needed a more
absolute system: pitch class.
In this new system, each of the twelve pitch classes is assigned a number 0-11, where C
is 0, C-sharp is 1, etc. In this way, a pitch class can be referred to specifically without any
relationship to outside information. What is lacking, however, is the octave position of a given
pitch class. In fact, pitch class refers solely to frequency and has no implications to register.
Pitch refers to both the frequency and register. Therefore, both pieces of data must be notated.
Both the old and new systems revolve the pitch class c. This being the case, the C two
octaves below bass clef is notated with a capital C and subscript 1: C1. An octave above that is
notated C, the next octave is notated with a lower-case c and no subscript. Middle c, located
between bass and treble clef, is notated as a lower-case c with the superscript 1: c1. The
superscripts continue numerically with each progressive octave. All pitches between, for
example, c1 and c2 will be followed by the superscript 1. Therefore, the C in any given octave
will begin the new superscript designation.
A pitch-class set is, much as in a numerical set, a group of two or more distinct pitch
classes. For instance, a set of notes including D, G, G-sharp, and B can be notated as [2, 7, 8,
For a full explanation of these concepts, view the “Concepts and Terms” section of Allen Forte’s The Atonal Music
of Anton Webern, pp. 5-7.
11] or as [D, G, G-sharp, B]. The set name, a term not used in the purposes of this paper, refers
to both the number of pitches in the set and to a number indexed in a comprehensive list of
mathematically possible pitch-class sets using that number of pitch classes. The term prime form
refers to the form that a pitch-class set is represented in the list of set names.
The terminology attached to pitch-class set sizes is important in the understanding of
rudimentary twentieth-century analysis. A dyad refers to a two-note set. A three-note set is
referred to not as a triad, but as a trichord. A four-note set is a tetrachord, and so forth. The
largest set dealt with in this study will be a tetrachord. The distinction between the terms “triad”
and “trichord” is important, as the term “triad” has specific implications to the tonal system,
whereas the term “trichord” has no such correlations.
Musical Form and Structure
Form will be a major component of my analysis of the music of Anton Webern. It is
important for the reader to have a basic understanding of a number of traditional forms: the
sonata, binary, ternary, theme and variations, rondo, and passacaglia. Of these, ternary form,
theme and variations, and the passacaglia will be discussed in detail.
Ternary form is among the simplest musical forms. It has often been associated with the
minuet. This form follows an ABA or ABA’ structure, depending on the exact nature of the
recapitulation. The B contrasts greatly with the A section in this structure. It is not uncommon
for the B section to be referred to as the “trio”, where in many cases there is a modulation
marking the change.
A Theme and Variations is another common form. As the name implies, the movement
begins with the statement of a theme or basic musical idea. Throughout the course of the
movement, the theme is varied rhythmically, modally, harmonically, or in other fashions to
create the musical effect the composer desires. Music of this form is often identified by a clear
delineation of the start of one variation and the beginning of another as well as the equality or
proportion in length of each of the sections.
The passacaglia is a musical form as well as compositional technique. Much like the
chaconne, it is built on a ground bass or ostinato. This ground bass provides the foundation for
subsequent variations of melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic ideas. Traditionally, the passacaglia is
in 3/4 time. That idiom is often subject to neglect.
Smaller Musical Forms and Motivic Treatment
Any short musical phrase can be used as a motive, or motif. It is often only a few notes
in length. Motives can be rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, or any combination of the three. These
musical ideas are the building blocks of longer melodies and, eventually, themes. The composer
often varies these motives in order to create a specific effect that is desired.
Among the many motivic treatments are diminution and augmentation. Diminution is the
shortening of each note and rest length by the same proportion. Likewise, augmentation is the
lengthening of each note and rest by the same proportion. The composer may also vary the
articulation. A shortened, staccato note may be used instead of a long tenuto note or tenuto
phrase, or vice-versa. String instruments may be plucked, pizzicato, instead of bowed. The
pitch-class of the motive may be changed, where the notes are all transposed up or down by a set
number of semi-tones, the distance between one pitch class and an adjacent pitch class. The
pitch may go down major third (or any other interval) where it had previously risen a major third.
If the same concept is applied to each interval in a motive, the process is called inversion. If the
notes of a motive appear in the reverse order, a retrograde has been used.
On the Music of Anton von Webern
Anton Webern did not seek to reinvent music entirely. Many of his twelve-tone works
can be formally analyzed with regards to tonal music. Webern’s early education had much to do
with his decisions as a composer later in life. Both he and Schönberg were educated in the
Austrian tradition, with a strong emphasis on the works of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. In
this education, three central disciplines were equal components of musical composition:
Harmonielehre, Kontrapunkt and Formenlehre (Harmony, Counterpoint, and Form)1. Webern’s
schooling treated the three disciplines as separate entities, where one could wane while the others
would not be disturbed2. These pillars were corroded by the turn of the twentieth century.
The principles of pure counterpoint outlined by Johann Fux in his Gradus ad Parnassum,
a guide to contrapuntal writing still used by many growing composers, had been diminished by
nineteenth century music. Beethoven, who had studied and mastered the principles outlined in
Gradus, broke many of the same rules of part-writing. Form is used as a guideline rather than a
rule for composers in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. Revered forms, such as the sonata and
variations were often replaced by such free forms as the nocturne and rhapsody. Harmonic
idioms used by Mozart and Haydn were certainly disregarded as well, where the like of Wagner
would often remain on one chord for over five minutes in the overture to Der Ring des
Bailey, Kathryn. The Twelve-Tone Music of Anton Webern: Old Forms in a New Language, p. 147
Nibelungen or Tchaikovsky’s common usage of fully-diminished seventh chords as a device for
With each of these examples, composers favored one central discipline over the others.
There is a willingness to sacrifice one for the integrity of the other two. Webern and Schönberg
took a new direction: restoring the principles of counterpoint and form, while reinventing the
discipline of harmony. This reestablishment of two of the principles allows Webern to
experiment with the third principle. Despite using a new, unfamiliar harmonic language, his use
of counterpoint and form unite his work.
The structure of music is, as with other forms of art, film, or even architecture, is form.
Familiar forms allow the listener to make sense of what they are hearing. Without form in
music, the listener can often become lost and unable to find their way back into the piece.
Webern was, at least in hindsight, conscious of the newfound importance of form in atonal
So let there be no mistake: we haven’t departed from the forms of the classical
composers. What has happened since is only alteration, extension, abbreviation…but the forms remain the same 3.
As with many early atonal composers, Webern discarded the old forms in naiveté, only to
return to them later in his career. In this generation, only the Viennese composers were
Anton Webern, Der Weg zur neuen Musik, ed. Willi Reich (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1960) trans. Bailey.
successful in projecting their harmonic language onto the old forms4. When Webern adopted the
twelve-tone system, his work regained formal similarities to the CPE. The sonata form pervades
opp. 20/ii, 21/i, 22/i, 24/i, and 27/i while opp. 21/ii, 24/iii, and 27/iii are theme and variation
forms. The rondo form is used in op. 20/i and more loosely in op. 22/ii. Opp. 24/ii, 28/ii and
28/iii are all ternary forms5. This encompasses the majority of Webern’s twelve-tone
Following his first twelve-tone works, Webern began to explore the potential for smaller
units contained within a row(score is located in Appendix 1A). He started to use six- and threenote sets as the foundation for multiple complimentary pitch class sets within a row. In Op.
24/iii, the central motive of the entire movement is contained within the intervals of a major
seventh and a minor sixth, as well as their inversions: the minor second and major third. This
sequence is derived from the first three notes of the prime form of the tone row used for the
entire work. This three note melodic motive is split into two rhythmic motives, as outlined by
Kathryn Bailey (see Appendix 1B)6.
The end of each variation is marked by a ritardando followed by an a tempo or a change
of tempo. The first such instance is in m. 13. Each ritardando is located fourteen bars after the
previous tempo alteration. This demarcates five distinct sections, each fourteen measures long
with the exception of the first being thirteen measures and the last being fifteen measures in
length. This structure is indicative of either a rondo or a variation form, where a rondo is in its
own right a variation form.
In the initial statement of the theme, mm. 1-4, each motive appears twice and begins on
the downbeat of each measure. This short theme is itself more easily likened to a motive. For
that reason, this movement may be redefined as a motive and variations. However, that
definition is far too vague and lacks formal implications. The motivic idea begins to develop on
m. 4 beat 3, when the motives begin on the secondary beat of each measure. Motive B also
appears four times between statements of A, before A returns on beat 1 of m. 9. Motive B is
stated four more times on the strong beats of mm. 11 and 12 and on the anacrusis to m. 14, where
a ritardando signifies the start of the first variation.
The first variation introduces two new treatments of motive A. The first instance is noted
as A2, where the second and third notes are slurred rather than staccato. Webern also introduces
the diminution of motive A from half notes to quarter notes in m. 19. He also begins to use a
quasi-retrograde form of A2 in m. 21. This form uses the staccato quarter note followed by a
quarter rest, beginning as a standard retrograde form. Webern then rhythmically reverses the
order of the second and third notes, where the slur and staccato notes are in their original place.
The second occurrence of this quasi-retrograde form of A2 leads into the final statement of
motive B before the second variation begins.
This middle variation is left undefined in Bailey’s study. She claims that the motivic
material in this variation do not “emanate from the motives that generate the rest of the piece.
Rows are elided here, and two-rather than three-note groups are emphasized.” Although at first
it does appear that two-note groups are emphasized, the third note of each set is included in
another voice, without exception. Webern introduces four new treatments of the original
motives, which I will refer to as Alegato, Blegato (which I will refer to as Al and Bl, respectively),
B2, and B3 (see Appendix 1B). Bailey also claims that “the rhythmic motives that are essential
elements of the rest of this movement are abandoned here”7, though many of the rhythmic ideas
used in this section bear resemblances to the rhythmic motives Bailey herself has outlined.
Webern uses virtual fragmentation and a deeper level of variation to obscure the original
In this variation, two or more notes from the same trichord may sound simultaneously.
The left hand of the piano contains the first set, where the E-flat rises an enharmonic minor sixth
to B. The major seventh, B-flat, is sounded simultaneously with the B. The right hand of the
piano sounds a G and an F-sharp on beat four of the same measure (m. 28). This dyad contains a
major seventh, with the minor sixth above the F-sharp sounding in the trumpet on beat one of the
following measure. The F-sharp also completes the retrograde form of the main motive in the
trumpet, which sounds the D and C-sharp, the major seventh with the piano’s F-sharp
representing the minor sixth. The piano’s initial statement, beginning with the E-flat, also
introduces a form of the Bl motivic variation. This variation manifests fully in the clarinet in
oboe, mm. 30-31, also a retrograde of the original melodic material.
The Al motive is first heard in the flute, mm. 32-33 where the flute plays all three notes
of the set. The next virtual fragment is contained in the violin, mm. 31-32. The sequence here
truly originates with the B-natural in the right hand of the piano. Rhythmically, this is similar to
motive A2, with the first note truncated. Webern continues to use this hocket treatment of the
melodic material or the remainder of this section, using major seventh dyads in the piano as both
accompaniment and in order to complete pitch class sets sounded by the other voices. Bailey
also notes that “Major seventh dyads predominate in the piano part, and the other instruments
play melodic fragments in which notes that are not adjacent in the row are frequently heard in
Ipid. p 206
succession”8. This merely outlines Bailey’s prior observation of Webern’s shifted focus from a
full tone row to smaller fragments of three or six notes. I find it advantageous to analyze this
movement not from a full twelve-tone row, but from the sequence of intervals used: the major
seventh and minor sixth. Motivic analysis unveils precisely how each fragment interacts with
fragments in the other voices.
The use of major seventh dyads in the piano also exemplifies a key technique in
Webern’s style. He uses segments of the row, or basic motivic materials, to create an
accompanimental figure from the same ideas that the melody is derived from. This middle
variation ends with a variant on motive B, mainly in the piano. I have labeled this variant B3,
where the occurrences in mm. 39-41 are the rhythmic retrograde of this idea. Harmonically, the
three-note motive is linked between each pair of dyads. In m. 40, the G-sharp in the left hand of
the piano completes both the set started by the violin on the anacrusis to the measure and begins
the set leading into the right hand of the piano on beat three of the measure. The G-sharp in a
minor sixth below the final A in the violin and an enharmonic minor sixth above the C in the
right hand of the piano in beat three. The C is also the minor sixth above the E in the left hand of
the piano on beat four, while the C-sharp is the minor sixth above the F sounded with the E in the
left hand. Webern interwove the trichords intricately in this variation, setting up a new idea for
the following variation.
The piano figure shifts in the third variation (mm. 42-55). The trichords are no longer
interwoven between beats. Webern instead writes each trichord as a block chord in the piano.
This new accompaniment motive is derived from Bailey’s motive A4, which is also introduced in
this variation and will take precedent in the final variation. As in the second variation, Webern
uses a hocket treatment of the original motive. Variant A3 first sounds between the horn and
trombone in mm. 42-43 and again in the same voices a measure later. Variant A4 is fully
articulated by the trumpet in mm. 45-46.
The final variation is, formally, rather simplistic. Variant A4 is articulated twice in the
mm. 56-58, followed by motive B. Motive A4 is articulated once more, followed by another
statement of motive B. This pattern is repeated again from mm. 61-65. The final iteration of this
idea begins again with two instances of A4 and is again followed by motive B, which repeats
rather than return to motive A4. The piece concludes with motive B in retrograde, much as the
opening thematic section concluded with motive B in its prime form.
Much as Webern divided the row into three-note pitch class sets in Op. 24/iii, he uses sixnote sets in his String Quartet, Op. 28/ii. In addition to this structural nuance, the movement is
also contained within a simple classical form: the ternary form. The use of six-note pitch class
sets in this movement gives the opening a sense that it is in three-four, rather than the marked
two-four meter. The canonic treatment of the tone row is devised such that the cello sounds on
the strong beat of what would be a triple meter (see Appendix 1C). In addition, the cello also
plays the anacrusis to each measure of virtual triple meter, adding extra weight to the
hypothetical beat three, which would also have weight in a minuet. This trend continues until m.
7, where this illusion is skewed. The feeling of three is again emphasized with the slurs in the
upper strings that, when alternating with the cello’s pickup and downbeat, give the illusion of
taking metric place on beats two and three. This lasts until m. 10, where the slurs are
unmistakably in two. The sense of the written meter is maintained through the ritardandi in mm.
9-16, where the section repeats. It is also characteristic of a ternary form to repeat a phrase or
the entirety of the A section, as Webern does in this movement.
The character of section B contrasts with the previous section greatly. The tempo change
is significant and the initial dynamic is apparent in the first violin’s sforzando, the forte in both
the cello and viola, and the sforzando in the second violin in m. 20. Where the first section was
predominantly pizzicato, the strings are nearly always bowed in the B section. The use of
pizzicato is intended as an accent or color change, rather than as the norm. This contrast of
articulations gives the B section a much more languid and sustained character, compared to the
upbeat and light A sections.
The A section returns sounding familiar, though the harmonic structure is slightly
different than the initial statement of the section. The character of the A’ section is identical to
the A section, allowing it to sound virtually the same to the ear. In terms of early twentiethcentury music, this movement is as close to a pure ternary form as may be possible. Given that
this is one of Webern’s last works, this faithful adherence to the old form speaks to his high
regard to the musical tradition.
Development of Musical Ideas
All of these forms, the sonata, ternary, rondo, and variation forms are long forms. They
form the structure of a larger work. Pieces can also be broken up into shorter forms, namely the
canon and fugue. Both of these small forms are derived from the basic musical device of
imitation. The listener will not remember a music event with one hearing. Therefore, in order to
establish a sense of familiarity with a central musical theme or idea, this idea must be repeated.
Imitation is a central component in contrapuntal writing.
In many of his pieces, Webern employs imitation in order to establish both a sense of
familiarity and to develop motivic ideas. Often, the second iteration adds slightly to the previous
musical idea. This creates a sense of organic growth in a piece of music. Both fugues and
passacaglias are important compositional devices for creating a sense of growth from a basic
idea, or subject, and new ideas branching off of this subject: countersubjects. Webern’s Op. 1,
“Passacaglia for Orchestra” uses the passacaglia form to grow an initial musical idea organically.
In fact, the work as a whole pays homage to the finale of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony9.
The opening set of variations to Webern’s “Passacaglia” bears stylistic resemblance to
J.S. Bach’s “Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor” BWV 582 (see appendix 1D). As with most
passacaglias, the opening passacaglia subject is stated alone. A set of harmonies is then added to
the theme in the second variation. In Webern’s passacaglia, first flute and first trumpet supply
this harmony and countersubject, while in Bach’s work, the countersubject is in the right hand of
the organist. In doing so, Webern has adhered to a formal and musical idiom that had been
established two centuries prior.
Walter Kolneder, Anton Webern: Einfuhrung in Werk und Stil (Rodenkirchen am Rhein: P.J. Tonger, 1961).
The melodic structure of Webern’s passacaglia also contains remnants of the old tonal
system. The opening D can be considered the first scale degree. The D falls to a C-sharp, or
scale degree seven. The C-sharp leaps to a B-flat, which in the key of D minor would be scale
degree six. It is here that Webern departs from the diatonic center of D minor. The B-flat falls
to an A-flat, a diminished fifth above the root. This interval is also referred to as a tri-tone. This
interval will become significant in the new twelve-tone system, as it splits the octave evenly.
The A-flat will then fall to an F, the third degree of D minor, and descend down the scale to an E,
degree two. The E then rises to an A, scale degree five. This leap is significant in that it outlines
a common cadential motion used in tonal music. Degrees two and five are native to the
dominant chord of a key. When the ear hears this diatonic leap, it is naturally inclined to
anticipate the tonic to follow. This is precisely how Webern’s passacaglia theme returns to the
This work also contains many characteristics of what will come later in his career as well
as stylistic features that resemble music from the mid- to late-nineteenth century. Variations
three through six of the passacaglia contain a melodic motive outlining the interval of a sixth
(both major and minor). Starting in the seventh variation, this interval is widened to a seventh
(both major and minor). This intervallic augmentation was common in Wagner’s treatment of
themes over the course of an opera. The prelude to Tristan und Isolde contains one character’s
leitmotif, that when stretched from a perfect fifth to a minor sixth, outlines the Liebestod motive
that results in the tragic climax of the entire opera. Additionally, leaps of a seventh are a
defining component of Webern’s style, particularly when he adopts the twelve-tone system.
Another of Webern’s early works, the String Quartet (1905) displays motivic usage
parallel to that of Mozart in Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550. The exposition of both
pieces includes a three note motif that is used to develop a theme. Mozart begins this motif in
the violins on beat four of the first measure (see Appendix 1E). He uses an eight note falling
second as the anacrusis where the lower pitch is repeated on following strong beat. Webern’s
string quartet is based on an equally simple motive. The original pitch descends a semitone then
ascends a major third. Both motives are used to create the opening theme of the piece.
The structure of the Mozart theme is clearly defined. The first basic idea is stated in mm.
1-5 using tonic harmony. The melody is formed almost entirely by the three-note motif outlined
above. This basic idea is then repeated within the context of subdominant and then dominant
harmonies. In m. 10 the theme is extended by a new idea, again starting with the same basic
motif. This continuation leads into a cadence that is extended for two measures to reinforce the
relationship between the tonic (g minor) and dominant (d major).
Similar harmonic and thematic structure is found in Webern’s String Quartet (1905). The
basic motif is stated and repeated by the first violin (see Appendix 1E). The cello responds with
the same motif, placed a fifth higher, implying a dominant function. The sustained harmonies in
m. 9 form a contrasting idea, while still using the same basic motif. The harmonies seem to be
moving back towards the initial tonal center of C, but cadence deceptively and ambiguously.
However, comparable thematic structures are used in both excerpts.
Webern uses this thematic structure to establish a familiar motif before exposing the
listener to a countertheme. The initial motif returns during points of stasis later in the piece,
giving a sense of arrival despite the lack of a tonal center. His decision to use a traditional theme
structure in a new way adds to that emotional effect. Despite being an early work, Webern is
able to apply past idioms to new music in order to establish a sense of continuity.
Melody and Harmony
Webern and his colleagues made one definitive innovation in music. This innovation is
the new harmonic language: serialism or the twelve-tone system. Harmonies between voices
were incidental based on the tone row used in the piece. The row could be manipulated through
retrograde, inversion, and transposition to create virtually any harmony the composer desired at a
given time. However, as Webern himself noted, there are some rules of nature that cannot be
…Exactly following natural law in its material…one …uses the possibilities
offered by the nature of sound in a different way, namely on the basis of a
system that does “relate only to each other”… the twelve different notes
customary in Western music up to now, but doesn’t on that account…ignore the
rules of order provided by the nature of sound – namely the relationship of the
overtones to a fundamental. Anyway it’s impossible to ignore them, if there is
still to be meaningful expression in sound!10
The notion of consonance and dissonance is derived directly from the harmonic series.
Aesthetically pleasing harmonies are comprised of tones found in the harmonic series of the root.
Likewise, dissonant harmonies create disorganized interference between the overtones. Webern
understood these laws of nature. His use of dissonance creates mood and texture, where the
harmonies as a whole are intended to be heard homogenously at times.
Webern often used clashing overtones to create moods and textures within his music.
Many composers before him used the same principles to a less extreme degree to achieve this
effect. He contrasts moments of relative consonance with moments of dissonance, as composers
Anton Webern, Der Weg zur neuen Musik, ed. Willi Reich (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1960) Trans. Leo Black, 61.
have done for centuries. Webern also alters the conception of consonance. The entire scale has
been shifted towards the dissonant end of the spectrum. Often, a moment of relative consonance
occurs when only one voice is sounding. Although two voices are not simultaneously sounding,
consonance in this case refers not necessarily to chord quality, but to a state of stasis. Open
intervals, such as perfect fifths and minor sixths, are often used as consonant intervals as well.
Another striking aesthetic feature is the perceived lack of melody. However, this
observation can be viewed from another angle: each voice is a form of the melody. Because the
basic motive (the tone row or otherwise) is so absolutely pervasive within the music, it is
possible to analyze each voice in terms of its horizontal, or melodic, implications. For instance,
the three-note motive that comprises Webern’s Op. 24/iii can be regarded as the melody.
Specifically, variant A is the melody and variant B is the countermelody. In a sense, the melody
creates the entire harmonic structure of the piece in addition to the thematic structure.
In other instances, Webern’s treatment of the pitch-class series creates stark contrasts in
texture and mood. His String Trio, Op. 20/ii shifts between short segments of relaxed harmonies
before shifting again into a loud, tense dissonant section. In a sense, the mood of the piece
changes rapidly (see Appendix 1F). The aggressive opening is contrasted against the much more
lyrical second section at m. 10. Such extreme changes of character are common throughout this
Webern did not attempt to redefine the role of relative harmonies in music. He merely
shifted the center, treating relative dissonance and consonance as tools for musical expression.
The role of counterpoint and part-writing were still important in his compositions. Parts were
written for instruments such that the timbre added to the quality of the music and the musical
ideas he was conveying. Webern used organized dissonance in order to create moods and
textures within him music. This technique can often be interpreted as disorganized sound to an
unfamiliar ear. However, as with any new musical language, proper time must be allowed for
the mind to make connections between what is known and what is unknown.
Many similarities can be found between Webern and his predecessors. Given the vast
array of decisions a composer makes during the writing process, his ability and willingness to
adhere to many of the old paradigms provides a valuable insight into his reverence and respect to
those who came before him. It is this ability that has been overlooked by many musicians,
composers, and theorists throughout the twentieth century. Proper attention has not been given
to the work of Anton Webern, and particularly not to the similarities to pre-twentieth century
music that his music displays.
The work of a handful of theorists has sought to make amends with the inherent neglect
of Webern’s work. As Allen Forte notes, “Webern’s more clearly delineated universe
incorporated as its basic resource the total chromatic of twelve equal-tempered pitches, but
extended to include new interpretations of the traditional syntax of rhythm and form…”. With
regards to the general study of Webern’s work, he also notes that “…among music theorists and
analysts his music has had a checkered career”11. Many have either shunned, neglected, or have
been generally reluctant to commit study to Webern’s music. It was only in 1998 that Allen
Forte published The Atonal Music of Anton Webern, after decades of an analytical paradigm
where Webern’s works served as “occasions for testing theories of structure, with concern for its
attributes as a cohesive repertoire usually relegated to a very secondary level of
It is my hope that this analysis has shed additional light on the unique qualities of
Webern’s work and that we may listen to his works not as a jumbled mess, due to our brain’s
Allen Forte, The Atonal Music of Anton Webern Preface, p. X
inability to process so much new data, but as a piece of balanced, ordered music. Classical
music itself is not classical, but neo-classical: based on the structures built by the Romans. The
concept of balance and equality were essential characteristics in music. It is this idea of balance
on which many formal paradigms were created. This idea of balance was not disregarded by the
likes of Webern, but was instead held in a newly rediscovered reverence. The free forms of the
late nineteenth century reflected a general disregard to form, which had become secondary to
Non-formal characteristics in Webern’s music were not greatly distant from the work of
his immediate predecessors and colleagues. The work of Debussy stretched the bounds of the
tonal system to levels which allowed the atonal composers of the early twentieth century to
experiment freely. His use of counterpoint and motivic treatment were innovative at times, but
also not unfamiliar to composers of the era. What makes these musical ideas appear so alien is
the harmonic language. Even within the twelve-tone system, Webern exploited smaller motivic
fragments. This technique creates a sense of unity in his work, despite the abstract harmonic
Webern’s career shows clearly where atonal, and specifically twelve-tone music, does
and does not work. By containing his music within well-known forms, using familiar
compositional techniques of motivic development and variation, and breaking down the twelvenote series into smaller melodic and rhythmic ideas, Webern is able to create a sense of
cohesiveness in his music. This is where many atonal composers have failed, and continue to
fail. Anton Webern has many valuable lessons to teach modern composers, for those who
choose to listen closely.
Shadows of our Past: A Compositional Analysis
Although many of his generation chose to ignore all the rules and create their own,
Webern chose to adhere to many Western music traditions. By doing so, his atonal works have a
uniquely resonant quality that other composers from this era lack. His decision to use classical
form and compositional techniques, including imitation and motivic development, allow his
works to speak expressively where his colleagues failed. It has been my intention to amplify
these qualities of Webern’s music and immerse the concept of serial music more deeply into
tonal paradigms. In this way, I intend to create a work that, although twelve-tone by nature,
speaks as freely and intelligibly to a common audience as a pre-twentieth century work would.
All twelve-tone works must begin with the composition of the tone row. This is not a
random string of notes. It must, by necessity, be well planned out such that its inversions,
retrogrades, and transpositions make musical sense when layered over the prime form. The
interval of a third dominates much musical repertoire. The sequence of falling thirds present in
the first two tetrachords13 provides a lyrical quality to the series. When inverted, a rising third
pattern occurs. The rising and falling third patterns are the central motif of the entire piece.
After the first two tetrachords, the sequence must be broken by necessity: the note E would be
the next in the pattern, despite already being present in the row. Much as Webern did in his
“Passacaglia”, though not a twelve-tone piece in its own right, the passacaglia subject can be
considered a sequence, the interval of a fifth becomes a possibility. The F at the end of the
second tetrachord leaps a fifth up to a C, from which point the falling third motif is continued,
Tetrachord: A set of four consecutive notes in a series, namely a tone row.
with the interval of a second instead. The final A leads chromatically back to the initial G# (see
Schönberg’s teachings emphasized the idea that the tone row is not a theme on its own.
However, even he broke his own rules while leaving this one sacred. In order to create a sense
of unity, I have chosen to use the tone row as a theme. The first two tetrachords comprise the
primary theme of the piece, with notes 2, 4, 6 and 8 of the row underneath the melody(see
Appendix 2B, mm. 25-30). This motif outlines the falling third harmonies, which can be
inverted later to create a rising third. These harmonies are consonant relative to pre-twentieth
century music. In fact, the row as a whole allows the work to remain relatively consonant
throughout. From standard motivic analysis, the falling third motif is present in the clarinet,
flute, and oboe at the beginning. This idea then spreads to the tremolo figure as well as the
bassoon triplet figure in m. 9. The tremolo idea outlines the entire row and progresses to the
sixteenth note figure in the clarinet from mm. 19-22, where the tremolo fades again. The falling
third then becomes a melody in m. 25. The oboe is accompanied by the clarinet, followed by the
flute being accompanied by the horn. The tremolo figure returns, accompanied by the original
two-note figure. All three ideas compete until m. 48, where the complete theme is finally stated
in the flute. The tremolo and two-note figure are used as accompaniment and texture underneath
In m. 67, the row is inverted to form a countertheme accompanied by a sixteenth note
variation on the tremolo figure. This countertheme is carried through m. 81, where the main
theme is restated at a faster tempo. The rhythm of the theme is altered to allow more notes of the
row to be included in each measure. The chromatically rising or falling eight note
accompaniment as well as the introduction of countermelodies, i.e. clarinet mm. 86-88, and the
use of a rising chromatic scale adds forward momentum to the section. The inversion of the row
also generates a new motivic idea that originates with the oboe in m. 90. It also sets up the
broken sixteenth note figures to follow in m. 93 and the opening of the harmonies leading into m.
The middle section of the piece, mm. 99 to 146, contains a technique not used by
Webern. Two ostinatos are used throughout the section, with the addition of a third in m. 124.
The first is derived from a transposed inversion of the row. This is the triplet figure originating
in the clarinet. The other is a transposed prime. Both accompaniment figures use one tetrachord
at a time in order to simulate key areas. The melody, found first in the horn in m. 99 beat 4,
begins using only a segment of the row. Each iteration of the melody grows closer to completely
the row. The key center shifts again in m. 113, where the triplet figure starts the same row
permutation on the third note instead of the first. This places the triplet figure two semitones
higher. The accompanimental figure and melody are transposed up a whole step as well. This
rising harmonic idea is used twice more in this section. The figures shift up a semitone in m. 123
and two semitones in m. 139. The section arrives at the largo section at m. 147.
The recapitulation begins at this arrival. The original theme is restated at a drastically
slower tempo in m. 149 in the flute. A new countermelody is introduced by the clarinet in m.
152 and then imitated by the bassoon a measure later. The horn uses this countermelody as a
lead into a final statement of the theme’s inversion from mm. 158 to 161. The tempo increases at
m. 163, where the entire theme is restated at a similar tempo to the animato section earlier in the
piece. The row is then fragmented among the instruments, much as it was at the beginning of the
piece. The tremolo figure returns briefly in m. 178 to return to the original tempo. Slowly, the
motivic fragments used to develop the theme are broken back down into their components. The
two-note motif returns in a slower form. It appears as staccato eight notes rather than a slurred
sixteenth into an eighth. This figure is slowed to staccato quarter notes, outlining the final
statement of the row a semitone below its original form. The use of the row a semitone lower
amplifies a feeling of settling and arrival at the conclusion of the piece.
The Recording Process
Selecting a Studio and Ensemble
Being new to recording projects, selecting a studio was one of the first questions I wanted
to answer. My decision to record at Mechanics Hall was based almost entirely on faculty
recommendations, as well as listening to past recordings done at the hall. Mechanics Hall was
geographically feasible as well, as it is located not far off of I-90 in Massachusetts. This made it
accessible and easy to find for the ensemble and myself.
Because I had never been to Mechanics Hall, I was unsure of what exactly to expect
when I arrived on the recording date. Although everyone I had discussed the hall with had high
recommendations, it is another thing entirely to experience it yourself. Not only was the hall
beautiful, complete with a world-class organ, the sound was magnificent. Both aspects were
beneficial in unforeseeable ways during the session.
Due to the excellent acoustics and visual appeal of the hall, the ensemble was enthusiastic
about playing there. This added an unconscious level of performance to the recording itself. In
additional to this immeasurable aspect, the hall also provided a wonderful environment to
produce a quality recording.
Finding an ensemble was the next challenge. Chamber ensembles tend not to be as
publicly open as many other groups and can be relatively elusive. I had two main options and a
backup option for an ensemble. The first was to contact other colleges in New England in order
to find an ensemble of interested graduate students. The second, preferred option was to find an
established professional quintet in the area. If that did not turn out, my backup would be to ask
the professors here at the University of Connecticut to perform for the recording. This last
option would be logistically more challenging. In addition, performing a piece of new music
with four musicians you have no played with in a chamber music setting can be difficult,
especially without a conductor.
Pursuing the first two options, I contacted a couple professors and graduate students at
the University to find out if they had any colleagues that were in or might know about a
woodwind quintet in the area. It turns out that the horn professor here was in a quintet. I have
found both a recording hall and an ensemble. The next step is to establish a date.
Booking a Recording Session
The process of scheduling a recording session is lengthy and, at times, frustrating. The
most difficult step is establishing a recording date. This is a time consuming, multi-step process
that revolves around finding an open date in (my case) eight schedules, including the studio’s.
This is the most difficult part of the process. The ensemble cannot commit to a project until the
date is confirmed, but I cannot book the studio until I know the ensemble is available on that
date. The process of finding dates that work for the ensemble, calling the studio and finding
open dates, and going between the two took roughly two weeks to complete. Finally, the session
date had been confirmed and put into everyone’s calendars. At this point, most of my stress had
been relieved and I could sit down and write the piece.
Recording, Editing, and Mastering
The first major step in a recording session is finding a good sound. This is comprised
mostly of microphone placement. The ensemble is playing the piece on stage while I sit in the
listening room next to the recording booth upstairs. The listening room includes a live
microphone feed of the stage as well as a video feed. I also have a microphone to communicate
with the musicians and call the takes of the session. After a few takes, the sound had been
perfected and we were ready to begin recording.
The session itself lasted three hours. By the end, we had recording nearly fifty takes.
Two of these takes were of the entire piece, while the rest were of sections of the piece. My role
at this point was to sit in the listening room and announce the take number as well as what
section of the piece would be played. After a take, there would be a short discussion of that take
via my microphone and feed of the stage and correct any mistakes made on the take. After a
good take was made, we would move on to the next one. The entire process was democratic
amongst me, the engineer, and the ensemble. Once we all felt a take was good, we would move
on to the next take.
This process repeated until takes of each section of the piece had been completed. The
first and last takes were of the entire piece. In addition, the ensemble was invited to the listening
room to listen to both of these full takes. This allowed them to hear how they sounded and to
determine what they wanted to improve.
The next step is to compile an edit list. The list is comprised of the take number on the
reference cd and what section of the take to use. This involved listening to every take again and
making decisions between two or more takes. In many ways, this was one of the most difficult
parts of the project. Often, we had two or three quality recordings of the same part of the piece.
My decisions were made based on minute details and flaws, some of which would not be caught
after one or even five hearings. The complete edit list contained about twenty-five edits to be
This is where Toby Mountain comes into the project. About two weeks after the session,
I traveled to his studio to make all of the edits and splices for the recording. The editing process
took about two hours in total. Another key part of this step is having someone hear the piece
who is completely unfamiliar with it. Often, because a composer, conductor, or performer is so
familiar with a piece, his or her ear will hear the music as it should be rather than as it really is.
Someone who is not as familiar with the piece will not be susceptible to this phenomenon. Toby
Mountain was able to hear some details of the recording, such as chair noise or minor intonation
issues, which I had completely overlooked.
This was beneficial during the brief mastering process as well. The concept of mastering
is essentially fine-tuning a recording so that it sounds as good as possible on any medium. In the
case of a collection of works or an album, the mastering process also consists of smoothing
playback differences between the tracks on the disc. Only a few minor changes were made for
this recording. One major change was to reduce the volume of the right channel, where the
clarinet was often too prevalent in the recording. Before leaving his studio, I had a copy of the
final recording of Shadows of Our Past
As a composer, the in-depth study of a single past composer has proven to be
enlightening. From the start, I had a basic understanding of serial music and of Anton Webern’s
work. However, I was in the same position as many theorists and musicologists have been in for
the last century. I knew very little about how his music functioned as it did: as music. My goal
was to discover how and why Anton Webern’s music worked, and how it fit in to my broader
ideas of what music is and should be. Many of these questions were raised in my preface. It is
my hope that I have come closer to answering the questions and criticism related to serial music.
Admittedly, many questions have remained unanswered. We will continue to ask
ourselves what in music creates meaning. Is the answer even objective at all? Many have tried
to view the arts through an objective lens, with the intentions of understanding it more
methodically. Some have found more success than others. However, it is evident through the
work of composers like Webern, Hindemith, Stravinksy, Berg, Schonberg, and the countless
others of this era, that music, and the arts as a whole, rely greatly on the world it is conceived in.
Let us look no further than Paris’s reaction to the debut of Le Sacre du Printemps as evidence.
My personal motive in choosing Webern for this project was simple: to dispel the notion
that serial music cannot speak as lyrically as other styles. I believe that I have been successful in
creating a piece of music that represents that notion. The musicians that I collaborated with
whole-heartedly agreed with me, to where one even remarked that Shadows of our Past allowed
her to like modern music.
The experiences of this project were also significant in my growth as a composer and
professional. I had never worked directly with a group of professional musicians before.
Suddenly, I had to be the one in charge of the musical ideas and how to execute them within the
rehearsal. . It was absolutely incredible to work with the Harmonia V quintet. They had the
quality of the recording in their best interest and committed the time they needed to do so.
The project also allowed me to make connections in the professional world. These
connections are with the staff at Mechanics Hall, specifically their recording engineer, Joe
Chilorio, and with the people I worked with directly, namely the Harmonia V quintet and Toby
Mountain. These connections are essential for any professional to bring publicity to their name.
After all, what good will music do if no one is there to hear it?
As a composer specifically, I have explored sounds that I may never have explored
without studying Webern’s music. This project has opened my horizons to new techniques that I
will base future pieces off of. Although the full tone row may be rather cumbersome, the use of
smaller pitch-class sets, as Webern hinted at in his later works, may be a much more expressive
direction to take in the future. As my horizons expand, I find new tools under my belt to create a
journey for those who will listen to my music. This sense of a journey is my primary goal in
every piece I write.
Perhaps, in time, the world will rediscover Anton Webern and his colleagues in much the
same way that I have. As a composer, I must embrace my heritage and learn to appreciate the
work of those before me. We are tasked with the continuation of an age-old tradition. Though
we may not find all music to our liking, we must first respect before we may criticize. It is of
great importance to understand the processes and techniques used by our predecessors, for
although the composers before us may seem like shadows, it is the shadows of our past that
define the music of the future.
A: Op. 24/iii Concerto for Nine Instruments
B: Table 5.1 and 5.1-Supplementary
C: String Quartet, Op. 28/ii
D: Passacaglia Comparison
Webern Op. 1, theme and first variation
J.S. Bach BWV 582, theme and first variation
E: Phrase Structure Analysis
Webern String Quartet (1905) exposition
Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, mvt. 1 exposition
F: Harmony and Mood
Op. 20/ii String Trio
Shadows of our Past
A. Tone Row (Prime Form)
B. Full Score (Transposed)
Bound Copy of Score Attached
Composers and Works Referenced
Johann Sebastian Bach
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
Franz Joseph Haydn
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550 movement 1
Early Nineteenth Century
Ludwig van Beethoven
Romeo and Juliet
Mid-Late Nineteenth Century
Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 movement 4
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Death and Transfiguration
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Tristan und Isolde (prelude)
Early Twentieth Century
Im Sommerwind (1904)
String Quartet (1905)
Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 1
String Trio, Op 20.
Symphony, Op. 21
Who I Worked With
A: The Harmonia V Woodwind Quintet
Kim Collins, Flute
Janet Rosen, Oboe
Thomas Labadorf, Clarinet
Robert Hoyle, Horn
Sue Zoellner-Cross, Bassoon
Harmonia V is an innovative newly formed professional Woodwind Quintet from
Connecticut. This group of accomplished musicians is dedicated to performing the best standard
literature, seldom heard treasures, and the freshest contemporary music available today. Each
member draws upon over 20 years of chamber music experience and believes that the audience
should be entertained as well as enlightened. Audiences of all ages will enjoy Harmonia V's
refreshing approach to virtuosity and nuance, exposing them to a new world of sound, color and
Collectively, Harmonia V boasts a musical resume including some of the most
prestigious music schools in the nation, including The Curtis Institute, Eastman School of Music,
Yale University and the Hartt School of Music. In addition, members have performed or
currently perform with most of the musical ensembles in CT including New Haven, Hartford,
Bridgeport and Waterbury Symphonies, Orchestra New England, and the United States Coast
Guard Band, as well as the Vermont Symphony, Springfield (MA) Symphony, Broadway
Theaters, and the Bermuda Symphony Orchestra. As music educators, they hold positions at
universities and schools in Connecticut, including the University of Connecticut- Storrs,
Connecticut College, Wesleyan University, Central Connecticut State University, Sacred Heart
University, Southern Connecticut State University, The Hartt School of Music, University of
Hartford, and The Neighborhood Music School in New Haven.
- Harmonia V
B: Joseph Chilorio and Mechanics Hall
Mechanics Hall - an acoustical masterpiece - is internationally regarded as one of the world's
great concert halls for its superb acoustics and inspirational beauty. It is regarded regionally as
Worcester's finest meeting place.
19th century elegance, modern amenities, superior acoustics and red carpet service combine to
make Mechanics Hall a superb rental venue for performances, recording sessions, weddings and
galas, business events and more.
Mechanics Hall is ideally located in the heart of New England - Worcester, Massachusetts.
Worcester is 40 minutes from Boston and Providence; an hour from Hartford and 3 hours from
New York City.1
Mechanics Hall is a major recording venue - a favorite among leading recording engineers,
producers and record companies worldwide. The Great Hall sound has been captured
electronically and is used through sampling by recording engineers who need the Hall's unique
and nearly perfect acoustic qualities in their recordings. Recordings made in the Great Hall have
been honored with four Grammy awards and nine nominations!
Past Recording Clients:
Gloria Dei Cantores
Cleveland String Quartet
Yo Yo Ma
Boston Modern Orchestra
Hartford Symphony Orchestra.2
C: Toby Mountain’s Northeastern Digital Recording
In 1985, Dr. Toby Mountain founded Northeastern Digital Recording, Inc., the first digital
mastering facility in New England. Toby's mastering credits include a wide variety of artists such
as The Beach Boys, Boston, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Richard Thompson, Morphine, Joan
Jett, Jimmy Sturr, Jay Geils, Arlo Guthrie, and Alison Krauss. He has earned several gold and
platinum albums and dozens of Grammy awards and nominations. He is also a member of the
Audio Engineering Society, and has published many articles in professional audio journals
including "Mix" and "Electronic Musician."
Toby is also very active in music education. As a former member of the University of
Connecticut music department, he now teaches and lectures half time at The College of the Holy
Cross in Worcester, MA. He frequently gives guest lectures on Music and Digital Media at
various colleges and secondary schools around the country.
Toby has music degrees from Princeton University (BA, 1972) and the University of California
at Berkeley (MA, 1978 PhD, 1981). He also spent several years working at the Stanford
University Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) and the MIT
Experimental Music Studio, two facilities which have pioneered research in computer music.
As the first digital mastering facility in New England, Northeastern Digital has always been a
technological leader in the industry. Featuring a famous and diverse clientele, we have enjoyed a
distinguished reputation for excellence and customer satisfaction.
When you first walk into our offices, you will immediately notice a clean, natural environment
with a warm and friendly atmosphere. This is a place where you can work effectively.
Our approach has always been to focus on our clients' wishes and needs. Since mastering is an
artistic endeavor, understanding the client's individual and personal goals is tantamount to the
project's success. We encourage all of our clients to be present at the mastering session. We
strive to get the sound that the client wants. Ultimately, we measure our success not by Gold
records or Grammy nominations, but by our high rate of repeat customers.
Northeastern Digital was founded in 1985 by Toby Mountain at the inception of the compact
disc. Initially, the company specialized in providing digital editing for classical and acoustic
projects, but soon expanded into a full-fledged mastering facility. By 1990 Northeastern Digital
had added CD-ROM mastering and computer driven audio. In 2000 the company added a studio
dedicated to video editing and the authoring of DVD-Video and Enhanced CD.
With the intentions of enhancing the understanding of many concepts described in this
paper, I have included a list of recommended recordings. I have listed the recordings in the order
in which the pieces or concepts are presented in the paper.
Symphony No. 40 in G minor – W.A. Mozart
Tristan und Isolde, prelude and Liebestod – Richard Wagner
Prelude to the Afternooon of a Faun – Claude Debussy
Concerto for Nine Instuments, Op. 24 – Anton Webern
String Quartet, Op. 28 – Anton Webern
Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 1 – Anton Webern
Symphony No. 4, Op. 98, mvt. 4 – Johannes Brahms
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 – J.S. Bach
String Quartet (1905) – Anton Webern
String Trio, Op. 20 – Anton Webern
Symphonie, Op. 21 – Anton Webern
Diatonic Scale. Until the late nineteenth century, the seven modes of the diatonic scale had been
the standard harmonic system. The first mode, known as the Ionian or major scale, contains the
series of two whole steps, a half step, three whole steps, and a half step. This pattern is, unlike
the whole-tone scale, an asymmetric pattern. Twelve distinct transpositions of each diatonic
Second Viennese School. Refers to Arnold Schönberg and his students in Austria during the
early twentieth century.
Sentence. A phrase structure comprised of a basic idea, the repetition of the basic idea in some
form, and a contrasting idea ending with a cadential passage. This structure was used frequently
during the Classical era, but saw a decline as the Romantic era developed.
Serialism. A musical style in which a set series of pitch classes are used to compose a work.
The original series can be transposed or inverted, and can also be found in a retrograde form.
Any combination of these alterations can be used simultaneously.
Whole-Tone Scale. One of a small set of symmetrical scale patters. It is comprised of six pitch
classes, each with two semi-tones, or whole steps, separating them. One key characteristic of the
whole-tone scale is the interval of a tritone from the root and the fourth degree. The whole-tone
scale is also a scale of limited transposition, much like it’s other symmetrical counterparts.
There are only two distinct whole-tone scales.
Bibliography and Works Cited
Austin, William W. "Webern and the Tradition of the Symphony." Anton Webern Perspectives
Bailey, Kathryn. The Twelve-Tone Music of Anton Webern: Old Forms in a New Language,
edited by Whittall, Arnold. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Phipps, Graham H. "Harmony as a Determinant of Structure in Webern's Variations for
Orchestra." Music Theory and the Exploration of the Past (1993): 473.
Forte, Allen. The Atonal Music of Anton Webern. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
Johnson, Julian. Webern and the Transformation of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Kolneder, Walter. Anton Webern: Einfuhrung in Werk und Stil. Rodenkirchen am Rhein: P.J.
Persichetti, Vincent. Twentieth Century Harmony 1961.
Polnauer, Josef, ed. Letters to Hildegard Jone and Josef Humplik. Translated by Cardew,
Cornelius. Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania: Theodore Presser Company, 1967.
Webern, Anton. Der Weg zur neuen Musik, ed. Willi Reich. Vienna: Universal Edition, 1960.
Webern, Anton. Concerto for Nine Instruments, Op. 24 [Konzert für Flöte, Oboe, Klarinette,
Horn, Trompete, Posaune, Geige, Bratsche und Klavier]. London: Universal Edition, 1948.
———. Passacaglia, Op. 1. London: Universal Edition, 1922.
———. Streichtrio, Op. 20. London: Universal Edition, 1927.
______. String Quartet, Op. 28. London: Universal Edition, 1955.
———. String Quartet (1905). New York: Carl Fischer, Inc., 1951.
———. Symphony, Op. 21 [Symphonie für Klarinette, Baßklarinette, zwei Hörner, Harfe, 1. und
2. Geige, Bratsche und Violoncell]. London: Universal Edition, 1929.