The Independence of Structural Parameters in Schenkerian Accounts of Tonal Form
Schenkerian theory distinguishes two components of musical structure, thematic design and tonal structure, whose respective roles in creating musical form are left unclear in Schenker’s own work: the Versuch einer neuen Formenlehre from his cap- stone Free Composition (1935) disclaims any reliance on thematic design, while his analyses show a clear awareness of it. Recent criticism, seeking to explain the rela- tionship between the two components, has tended to suggest either that they must be in perfect agreement, or else that they do not constrain each other in any system- atic way. This article proposes instead that they constrain each other only partially (or “fractionally”), a view which becomes evident when Schenker’s analyses in his Versuch einer neuen Formenlehre are taken as a totality rather than individually. In a repertoire context, the two components “agree” when a particular thematic design implies a particular tonal structure, and vice versa, a condition that I show is mostly but not entirely the case with the examples in Schenker’s Versuch.