The Urlinie, Melodic Energies, and the Dynamics of Inner Form
Schenker’s Ursatz may be an effective model of tonal unity, but that very unity renders its connection with form unclear. This article considers this question from the point of view of energetics. The descent of the Urlinie would seem to enact a decrease in energy, a problematic assertion for most music. This apparently static picture of the Ursatz is clearly at odds with the dynamics of formal shaping. Obviously many factors closer to the surface may counteract the impression of stasis. Nonetheless I believe it is possible to uncover a rapport between deeper voice leading and the events of the surface. This involves the injection into the Urlinie of conflicting melodic energies as a way of shaping the internal dynamics of a work and motivating its unfolding inner form. Proceeding from suggestive comments by Schenker, this article will examine some ways in which surface diminutions may infuse energy into a static Kopfton, at once digressing from it and sustaining it. This approach situates Schenker within the school of energetics, while recognising his differences with Ernst Kurth. This article takes a cue from an early Tonwille essay on a Bach prelude, where Schenker finds fourth progressions that “actually strive upward”, creating interference with the descending Urlinie, and proceeds to examine longer pieces by Bach that similarly do not follow any preset formal schema. A mechanism is proposed whereby 1) the interference generated by the superposed inner voices creates resistance to the main melodic line, and 2) that resistant diminution can be understood to confer its energetic quality onto that line. The larger goal is to reconsider the role of the Schenkerian background in shaping the inner form of tonal music.