Between the tones: A study of the theory and microtonal works of Alois Haba
Tam, Christina Yik Man
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This study explores the microtonal music of Czech composer Alois Hába, who composed works in the quarter-tone, sixth-tone, and fifth-tone systems from the early 1920s to the 1960s. My aim is to determine the function of microtones in Hába's music, that is, whether they appear merely as nuances or inflections, or whether they play an important structural role. Through an examination of Hába's treatise, Neue Harmonielehre , and the analyses of selected excerpts from a variety of Hába's compositions I illustrate that microtones are sometimes used as inflections, but at other times they are important structural elements in the music. Chapter 1 presents a brief biography that includes a description of Hába's early influences that inspired him to compose with microtones, as well as a review of relevant secondary sources. Chapter 2 summarizes Hába's theoretical concepts, which are mainly found in his treatise, the Neue Harmonielehre . Chapter 3 examines the pitch structures found in Hába's microtonal music focusing on a certain type of structure that he describes in his writings as a regular construction, a set of pitch classes separated by a constant interval. I also discuss the use of traditional tertian chords, and tertian chords with added pitches in some of Hába's later works. Chapter 4 presents Hába's ideas about voice leading and uses musical examples to illustrates some of these ideas. The chapter also applies the recent theoretical concepts of fuzzy transformations and Klumpenhouwer Networks to some musical passages to reveal some underlying voice-leading patterns. Chapter 5, which investigates form in Hába's music, divides into two sections: athematicism and tone centrality. The chapter uses musical examples to illustrate that Hába's music does not strictly adhere to an athematic formal scheme, but it does often exhibit features of tone centrality. Finally, in Chapter 6, I review and summarize the ideas presented in previous chapters to illustrate that Hába in his music uses microtones either as important structural elements, as embellishment, or as means of variety. Furthermore, the analyses of Hába's music reveal that the composer had a penchant for pitch structures comprised of large whole tones (tones slightly larger than a whole tone in 12-tone equal temperament). These pitch structures also include the perfect fourths or its complement the perfect fifth, and Hába often exploits these two intervals in his music.