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The First Movement of Bartók's Second String Quartet: Sonata Form and Pitch Organization

by Bennett, James N.

Abstract (Summary)
The moderato of Bartók's Second String Quartet is a lucid and eloquent sonata form that conforms rhetorically to sonata-form norms of the eighteenth century. This thesis will fully delineate the form and analyze the extent to which it conforms to these norms. In order to precisely place the movement in context, the Sonata Theory of James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy and William E. Caplin's system of formal functions will be employed. In addition, the movement's Grundgestalt will be identified, and motivic connections between it and the other thematic materials will be revealed. Bartók's pitch organization, while non-traditional, also aids in articulating the sonata form. Building on the work of George Perle, Elliott Antokoletz, Joseph Straus, and others, this thesis will show the movement's pitch organization to be a synthesis of pitch centers (arranged symmetrically) and three distinct families of harmonies. This system of families is derived from the work of Straus, in which he suggests a polarity between octatonic subsets and hexatonic subsets. His argument is amplified here by including diatonic subsets, creating three families of harmonies. Each of the moderato's thematic areas is represented by a particular family and its transitional areas are defined by ambiguous harmony belonging to either several families or none. In this way, the pitch organization is laid out analogously to that of a traditional sonata. Processes analogous to traditional recapitulatory fulfillment (as in Edward T. Cone's "sonata principle") are also at work. Ultimately, the unique construction of this astonishing work will be shown to be a combination of old and new, a twentieth-century reinterpretation of an eighteenth-century form.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Samuel Ng; Robert Peck; David Smyth

School:Louisiana State University in Shreveport

School Location:USA - Louisiana

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:music

ISBN:

Date of Publication:04/11/2007

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