Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Proto-backgrounds (introduction)

My essay "Thematic Reading, Proto-backgrounds, and Transformations" is about to appear in Music Theory Spectrum 31/2: 284-324. For that reason, several early blog posts will read the Schubert waltz in terms of the proto-background construct developed there. A PDF essay with explanation and examples may be found here: proto-background. [Link updated 10 June 2016.]

In a generative hierarchical theory of traditional European tonality (such as Schenker or Lerdahl and Jackendoff), intervals precede lines. Taking the view that intervals are therefore the proper content of the earliest level(s), I build a set of 9 proto-backgrounds within the octave: three unisons, three intervals above ^1, two above ^3, and one above ^5. For the key of D779n13, these would be:

In the essay, I use an informally applied transformational language to elaborate the proto-background intervals, but any kind of notation for linear analysis (including any of the several "dialects" of Schenkerian notation) would be appropriate, too. Some transformations work directly with intervals (ADDINV and DIVision), others with stepwise formations (LINE, Neighbor, and their directional inverses).

I will post a series of entries, each of which is a reading based on one of the proto-backgrounds. A tenth entry will take up the question of comparison and evaluation.