But What Does It MEAN, Professor? (Updated)

So, this is an analytic reduction of Schoenberg’s Op. 19, No. 2. The first element to be addressed is the nearly omnipresent G-B dyad that begins the piece. It occurs in eight of the movement’s nine measures. This repetition is a sure sign of the significance of thirds in the work’s harmonic structure. The first variance from this dyad expands it out to a III.1 chord (including the melodic F-sharp). The III.1 chords are significant throughout the movement- it begins with two such chords in succession and likewise ends with a pair of them. This group contains but is not limited to diatonic seventh chords lacking tritones: major sevenths, minor sevenths, and the possible-but-rarely-encountered minor-major seventh (that is a minor triad with a major seventh above it). The melodic outlining of an A-flat major triad (interpolating what can be considered a nonharmonic A) sounding beneath the G-B dyad creates the second III.1 chord. Comparing this descent to A-flat in measure 3 to the ascent from A-flat to C in measure 6, the A-C-sharp dyad there could be construed as having a nonharmonic function as well.

Moving on to root motion, it is clear that third-relations are significant here as well. Root motion by third appears regularly; five of fourteen root movements are by thirds. An additional three connections are by whole step, harmonized in parallel major thirds, and outlining a whole-tone scale fragment, which is broken by the half-step descent to C-E prior to the final sonority, again a III.1 chord, on G.

The melodic framework extrapolated here has been ‘normalized’ into a single octave for graphing purposes. Again, in it we see the emphasis on thirds, from D to F-sharp, and then descending (in pitch classes only, the actual register of the pitches is generally the octave above) to D at the end of the movement. Also, there is an internal descent by thirds in measure three, continuing from the anacrustic F-sharp in measure two.

Again, further information as this situation unfolds.


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