Doctoral Colloquium (Music) | Prof. William Rothstein

Wednesday, April 3, 2024 16:30to18:00
Elizabeth Wirth Music Building A-832, 527 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1E3, CA
Free Admission

The Doctoral Colloquium is open to all.

Doctoral ColloquiumProf. William Rothstein, Guest Speaker, Professor of Music Theory - CUNY Graduate Center

Title: Melody vs. Harmony

Abstract: The word “harmony” means “agreement” broadly conceived; in musical discourse, “harmony” refers to chords and their relations. During the centuries in which Western harmony was founded on the trias harmonica, melody and harmony usually cooperated. The Rule of the Octave, for instance, assigns stable chords to stable melodic degrees, mobile chords to mobile degrees.

Sometimes melody and harmony work independently. Theorists from the seventeenth century to the present have written of such situations. Most interesting are the views of Fétis, Schenker, and Hindemith, who regarded melody as an independent variable, one that should be analyzed both separately and together with its accompaniment. Analyzing melody independently is virtually required when dealing with compositions built on a cantus firmus.

After a tour of historical theorists, I will cite a few passages in which melodic-harmonic conflicts operate locally. Then I will focus on works in which such conflicts occur on larger scales: “Laudate pueri” from Monteverdi’s Vespers (based in part on an analysis by Evan Campbell); the opening chorus from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (based in part on an analysis by Mark Anson-Cartwright); and Verdi’s La forza del destino.

Bio: William Rothstein is recently retired from Queens College and The Graduate Center of The City University of New York, where he taught for 25 years. He has also taught at Amherst College, Oberlin College, and the University of Michigan. He is author of Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music (1989) and The Musical Language of Italian Opera, 1813–1859 (2023). He has published extensively on the music of Beethoven and Chopin, the theory and analysis of rhythm, and the theories of Schenker.

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