From pitch to tension: A theory of motive in the solo woodwind music of Mamlok, Krenek, Carter, and Berio
Riehl, Eugena Denise
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The abandonment of tonal function around the turn of the twentieth century enabled composers to explore new methods of composition. By 1950, serialism had taken a firm hold in the methods of many composers. The influence of serialism, as well as other post-tonal techniques, led to innovative harmonic and contrapuntal thinking and, thus, new melodic structures. The smallest unit of melody remained the motive; however, motives, like harmony, require a fundamental change in analytical method. Analysis of the new harmonic language has been explored extensively through the works of Allen Forte and other notable scholars; melodic analysis has been dominated by tone rows and pitch-class sets. However, the definition of motive remains virtually untouched since the Baroque era. In order to devise a new definition of motive, I explore monophonic compositions from the last half of the twentieth century. Some solo instrumental music present harmony as well as melody, such as the piano and the guitar; most vocal music reflects a written text. Solo woodwind music, however, depends upon a single line that presents motives in their basic form. I analyze four different pieces composed by four different composers who have each been influenced by serialism. Ursula Mamlok's first twelve-tone composition, Variations for Solo Flute, begins in a strict style and creates motives through predominantly tonal means. During this piece, motives and the row "deconstruct," to use Mamlok's term, to produce an improvisatory style in the midsection followed by a palindromic reconstruction of the motives and row. Mamlok implies that her term, "deconstructing," means dissolving or dismantling. Entirely in twelve-tone technique, but with unique features of serialism, Ernst Krenek's Monologue for Clarinet Solo presents a different motive on each of three musical features. Elliott Carter, although influenced by serialism, composes freely in Scrivo in Vento, for flute, using many stylistic features to produce theme-like phrases that employ distinct motives that can be as long as a few measures or as short as one note. Finally, Luciano Berio's first Sequenza defines motives through features, which he describes in his books and interviews, but are nontraditional and, at times, then seem counterintuitive to the classically trained ear. This array of approaches to motivic construction leads to a definition of motive that must include all the traditional and innovative features of motives. However, not all features are always present; yet no feature can be excluded from the definition. This leads to my employment of Carl Weber's concept of "ideal type." My definition evolves through my four analyses and becomes formalized through this concept of ideal type.