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Formenlehre in Der freie Satz: A Transformational Theory

Nicolas Meeùs - pag. 99-113

In Der freie Satz, Schenker stresses the innovational character of his description of forms. Yet his Formenlehre does not appear so different from more traditional ones. My claim is that the novelty resides in Schenker’s description of the growth of forms through the levels of prolongation, in a truly transformational process. The forms in the foreground are not different from those of more traditional descriptions. Schenker however does not describe them as mere successions of formal parts, but as the result of a progressive transformation through the levels, from their utter unity in the background to their diversity in the foreground. Such a description is analogous to the later transformational theory of Noam Chomsky, which it prefigures, and is a striking expression of Schenker’s theory as a whole.

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