Webern and his Melodic Motivic Development in Early Atonal Music - part 3

part 1
part 2
part 4

Harmonic Relationships

4th Movement

The 4th movement starts with non-pitched percussion, then adds timpani with a long sustained roll on pitch class 3-3 [0, 1 & 4] (example 3.a.1). The flutes enter with a pitch class of 4-3(12) [0, 1, 3 & 4] (example 3.a.2), adding pitch 3. Muted French Horns take over for the flutes with pitch class 5-32 [0, 1, 4, 6 & 9] (example 3.a.3). Muted Trombones replace the horns with the same set as the flutes (example 3.a.4), but in a much lower register. Finally the flutes return with the same pitch class as the timpani (example 3.a.5). The sets expand and then contract, as well as create an arch of the sets used, as if to turn back on itself as is typical of the melodic movement. All this takes place prior to the first presentation of the melody.

example 3.a

When the melody is presented, it is over sustained notes of the trombones on a pitch class of 4-7(12) [0, 1, 4 & 5]. Add the melody, pitch class of 7-2 [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 7], to the harmony and the meta-set ranges from pitch 0 to 9, except for pitch 7. The complement form of this meta-set is 3-3, the same set as the timpani which starts the piece and example 3.a.5 which occurs right before the melody enters.

When the alto flute takes the melody a similar effect happens. The low brass are playing short notes of a pitch class 5-20 [0, 1, 3, 7 & 8]. While this set is not the compliment to the flute melody of 7-10, the two together create a meta-set of pitches 0 through 9, with the exception of pitch 5. So, the pitch range is expanding. Like the first melody in the Clarinet, the number of pitches heard are the same with slight variation into which pitches are sounded, yet by expanding the range the harmony has an undulating effect.

As the piece draws to a close there are a series of dense brass chords. I already spoke about the sounding of all twelve notes at the end of this movement; however, the chord progression of the low brass prepares us for the next movement. The set class 5-z18 is the last chord before the final (example 3.b), and it is preceded by two variations of another 5 pitch class. At the start of the 5th movement, just after the opening presentation of the melody, we hear the 5-z18 chord again (example 3.c) in two variations before we move on to the piece.1 The movement has come to a close, but the piece has not.

example 3.b       example 3.c


5th Movement

Where in the 4th movement the harmony is an extension of the melody, complementing the melody to extend the set, in the 5th movement the harmony are subsets of the melody, undulating from one set to another to create a complete melodic set. In the 5th movement the melody begins with a muted trombone set 5-1(12) (example 2.a). The harmony is played on muted low strings (including harp) comprised of set 5-30 (example 4.a) bar 1, set 4-5 and set 5-30 repeated in bar 2, on muted trombones with set 5-z18 (example 4.b) and set 4-17(12) in bars 2 & 3 and back to the strings with 2 sets of 5-z18 (example 3.c) bars 3 & 4. None of these sets are played together but broken as the melody is broken later in the movement. There is also an undulating movement of the sets with 5-30, 4-5, 5-30, 5-z18, 4-17 and 5-z18. In Appendix B there is a chart showing the K relations of these sets.

example 4.a example 4.b example 4.c

Another example of the undulating harmonies is found again in the strings at the end of the trombone melody (example 4.c) bar 5.

When the 5th movement gets to the broken melodic phrases at bar 12 the harmony shifts too. Under the first melodic phrase (example 2.c) the low strings are playing harmonics of 4-3(12) with a prime form of [0, 1, 3 & 4] (example 4.d). The next melodic phrase (example 2.d) has a harmony set of 4-18 with a prime form of [0, 1, 4 & 7]. The third melodic phrase (example 2.e) has a harmony set of 4-7(12) with a prime form of [0, 1, 4 & 5]. The final melodic phrase (example 2.f) has the harp at then end of bar 16 playing a set of 4-18 (example 4.e). The prime pitches of 0, 1 & 4 consistent in all these sets with the set 4-18 undulating and coinciding under the melody sets of 4-z15.

example 4.d example 4.e

In the 5th movement, Webern mimics the melody by creating a harmony that moves with it, expanding, contracting and undulating. There are points where the melody is broken and the harmony reflects this. Eventually, at the end the piece resolves with all twelve pitches, but unlike the 4th movement, where nearly all are in the melody, in the 5th movement the harmony has to play a much larger role in filling the "gaps" as if someone was missing and only the memories can fill the void.

1 Baker, James M. "Coherence in Webern's Six Pieces for Orchestra Op. 6", Music Theory Spectrum, Vol 4 (Spring, 1982), p18


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