My work on Schubert is emblematic of my main interest: that of 19th-century form. The questions that drive me lie in the intersections of form, style, meaning, and narrative. To this end, my dissertation investigates the structure, formal function, and narrative resonances of the three-key exposition within Schubert’s oevre.
Summery and impact of the dissertation:
In my dissertation, I show that Schubert elevated the second tonal area to be on the same hierarchic level as the outer-two formal areas, and gave that area a flexible formal function. This allowed him to create six novel formal functions by applying a number of what I call “harmonic destabilizing techniques” to the music in that key area. The resulting model is a three-part form, and represents a third, principally 19th-century option for a sonata-form exposition along with normative continuous and two-part expositions.
This explanation clearly goes against previous two-part conceptions of the form, which are based in theories designed for 18th-century repertoire, and requires us to approach these pieces in a more “positive” light—letting the norms and types emerge out of the music rather than using 18th-century theories to dictate how to hear 19th-century music. Such a perspective allows features of Schubert's music to come to light on their own rather than as a result of them being deformational to 18th-century practice. Thus, I see this work not only changing the way we think about an entire genre of music—three-key exposition—but also providing a framework for future work on 19th-century music.
Summaries of my chapters are below:
Chapter 1 puts forth my new definition of three-key expositions, while showing where previous definitions shine and where they go wrong. In particular, I ruminate on where the categories of three-key exposition and trimodular block diverge and overlap, an exercise that helps bring to light the features of his predecessors' music that may have captivated the young Schubert and eventually led to the solidification of this genre.
Chapter 2 then explores both the compositional methods Schubert used to alter the formal function of the second tonal area—what I call "harmonic destabilizing techniques—and how his treatment of that area affected the long-range narrative trajectory of the exposition. In the process, I put forth a new labeling system and six novel formal functions that help capture the formal processes at work in these pieces.
Chapter 3 elucidates links between Schubert's two- and three-key expositions, showing how his treatment of large-scale harmonic digressions in his two-key expositions is similar to that seen in the second tonal area in the three-key expositions.
Chapter 4 then takes a narrative approach showing that Schubert's predilection for the three-key exposition may have been driven by few types of conflict narratives. This chapter also attempts to the origins of a few of Schubert's harmonic destabilizing techniques, detailing how and why Schubert may have begun using them.
Chapter 5 asks how and why Schubert chose to make tonal and thematic alterations when he did to his three-key expositions within the recapitulation. For Schubert often clarified or further obscured the formal function of the second tonal area within the recapitulation, prompting us to ask how this part of the sonata can affect perceptions of formal function, even retrospectively.
Additional Work on Schubert
I also plan to publish articles from some subsidiary studies that were motivated by my dissertation, but sit outside its main scope. One such article will examine the troubled publication history of an early Schubert string quartet: D. 68. Drawing from archival work I undertook on Schubert’s compositional sketches in 2014 through a grant awarded by the Presser foundation, I will analyze how editorial decisions to subtract or add musical material in early publications of this work—some supported by Schubert’s sketch material and some not—crucially altered the overall narrative of the piece. I also plan to explore the changing uses of authentic cadences as form-defining markers in 19th-century formal practices.
Schubert's Three-key expositions
- In progress: (Email me for more information)
- Chapter 1: Defining the Three-Key Exposition
- Chapter 2: Form-Functional Variety and Expositional Narratives in Schubert's Three-Key Expositions
- Chapter 3: Large-Scale Harmonic Digressions in Schubert's S Themes
- Chapter 4: The Foreshadowing of Crisis: Emerging Middle Keys in Schubert's Development of the Three-Key Exposition
- Chapter 5: Recapitulations in Schubert's Three-Key Expositions: Tonal Alterations and Form-Functional Reconsideration