Academic department under which the project should be listed

COTA - Music

Faculty Sponsor Name

Dr. Jeffery Yunek

My research does not involve any human subjects and is solely based on musical analysis.

Abstract (300 words maximum)

In this presentation, I will show how the ambiguous ending of the first movement of Brahms Op. 38 is part of a single, multi-movement narrative in which persistent tragic signifiers, metric dissonance, and formal degradation will confirm an overall tragic archetype. Using literature on musical narrative from Cone (1974), Hatten (1994), and Almén (2008), this presentation will analyze the first movement in-depth and show that the movement contains a number of tragic signifiers, including pianto motifs, metric dissonance, and tragic key areas, that suggest a tragic archetype between two characters in a contentious relationship. However, this tragic reading is subverted with the arrival of the major-mode coda at the end of the movement. The major-mode coda does not definitively produce a comedic reading because of the tragic signifiers present within it. As a result, I extend my analysis to the next two movements to create an opus-level narrative, a level of analysis that has previously been done by both Kinderman (1992) and Hatten (1994). In my analysis of the next two movements, I show tragic signifiers and motifs that unite the piece into one connected narrative. The final movement prominently displays the earlier pianto motif, introduces pervasive metric dissonance, and contains massive formal degradation. These three aspects of the final movement, combined with an opus-level narrative, provide closure for the ambiguous narrative of the first movement and confirm a tragic narrative for the entire piece.

Project Type

Event

Included in

Music Theory Commons

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Narrative Ambiguity in Brahms Op. 38: An Argument for Multi-Movement Analysis

In this presentation, I will show how the ambiguous ending of the first movement of Brahms Op. 38 is part of a single, multi-movement narrative in which persistent tragic signifiers, metric dissonance, and formal degradation will confirm an overall tragic archetype. Using literature on musical narrative from Cone (1974), Hatten (1994), and Almén (2008), this presentation will analyze the first movement in-depth and show that the movement contains a number of tragic signifiers, including pianto motifs, metric dissonance, and tragic key areas, that suggest a tragic archetype between two characters in a contentious relationship. However, this tragic reading is subverted with the arrival of the major-mode coda at the end of the movement. The major-mode coda does not definitively produce a comedic reading because of the tragic signifiers present within it. As a result, I extend my analysis to the next two movements to create an opus-level narrative, a level of analysis that has previously been done by both Kinderman (1992) and Hatten (1994). In my analysis of the next two movements, I show tragic signifiers and motifs that unite the piece into one connected narrative. The final movement prominently displays the earlier pianto motif, introduces pervasive metric dissonance, and contains massive formal degradation. These three aspects of the final movement, combined with an opus-level narrative, provide closure for the ambiguous narrative of the first movement and confirm a tragic narrative for the entire piece.