• Lawrence W. aka Yuri B.

Towards a Secular Understanding of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Music

Binary Harmonic Functions in Offertorium (1980)


“a beautiful picture of rhythmic calculation,

proportionality, mathematic exactness in

the large-scale formal organization…”

- Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina



ABSTRACT


This research aims to identify fundamental harmonic elements of Sofia

Gubaidulina’s compositional language. By focusing on Offertorium (1980) and drawing on additional examples from compositions as early as Chaconne for piano (1963) to as late as Concerto for violin, cello and bayan (2017) this study provides a profile of Gubaidulina’s approach to harmony. Among the devices examined are harmonic function, pitch centricity, symmetrical and inversional structures, micro-tonality and chromatic vs. diatonic harmony.

Since immigrating to Germany in 1992 Gubaidulina’s music, creative philosophy, and aesthetic have attracted the attention of musicologists and music theorists from around the world. The majority of this scholarship has focused on the connection between the musical material and religious symbolism. There is limited research on Gubaidulina’s harmony from a purely theoretical angle. The potential theological symbolism of Gubaidulina’s harmonic devices (e.g. symmetrical and inversional structures representing the cross) are deliberately not discussed in this study with the aim of providing a purely theoretical analysis. Towards a Secular Understanding of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Music puts forth evidence that Gubaidulina’s harmony functions on technical principles developed through an idiosyncratic approach to the combination of various harmonic devices. By identifying the underlying harmonic principles and their collective functions, this study strives to contribute to a more secular and theoretical understanding of Gubaidulina’s music.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi

LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii

PREFACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

CHAPTER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

  1. Part I: Binary Harmonic Function . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

1.1 Harmonic Analysis of Offertorium (1980) (R.N. 115 – 123)

  1. Part II: Dual-Root Tonic Function . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

2.1 Harmonic Analysis of Offertorium (1980) (R.N. 2 – 3)

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29


LIST OF FIGURES


Figure Page

  1. Harmonic Reduction, R.N. 115 – 116 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

  2. Harmonic Reduction, R.N. 116 – 117 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

  3. Harmonic Reduction, R.N. 117 – 119 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

  4. Harmonic Reduction, R.N. 119 – 120 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

  5. Harmonic Reduction, R.N. 120 – 122 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

  6. Harmonic Reduction, R.N. 122 – 123 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

  7. Chordal Exchange Structure, Phrase II (R.N. 116 - 117), Phrase VI (R.N. 122 – 123). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

  8. Dual-Root Tonic of Polychord I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

  9. A Dominant Quality of Polychord II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

  10. Eb minor Quality of Polychord III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

  11. A Dominant Quality of Polychord IV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

  12. Eb Major/minor Quality of Polychord V . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

  13. A Major 7 and F Major/minor Components of Polychord VI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

  14. Harmonic and Voice-Leading Reduction of First Six Polychords . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28


PREFACE

As a means of establishing a frame of reference, I will outline key aspects of Sofia Gubaidulina’s compositional method and provide the rationale for a theoretical analysis of her harmonic technique. This study aims to contribute to a more secular and theoretical understanding of Sofia Gubaidulina’s music by providing generalizable research findings drawn from the analysis of Gubaidulina’s scores, manuscripts, and compositional sketches.

Gubaidulina is one of the most unique musical voices of the 20th and 21st century. Her profound spiritual beliefs deeply inform her distinctive style, yet her religious devotion is only one aspect of her creative work. Gubaidulina’s compositional method is informed by two distinct approaches; “constructivism” (technical) and “symbolism” (theological). Within the current musicological discourse, an emphasis is often placed on the latter, structural aspects such as pitch centricity and symmetrical harmonic structures frequently discussed through the lens of religious symbolism. The majority of existing literature provides a glance into Gubaidulina’s deeply religious beliefs but falls short in examining the underlying structural aspects of her innovative harmonic techniques. The conceptual framework of this study is shaped by a review of existing literature, which led to the discovery that additional theoretical research of Gubaidulina’s harmonic method is needed.

This study primarily focuses on Offertorium (1980) for violin and orchestra, a 40-minute composition that brought Gubaidulina to international attention through the championing of violinist Gidon Kremer. I have selected Offertorium (1980) for this study because the majority of earlier studies focus on the theological symbolism of its musical form with not enough emphasis placed on Gubaidulina’s innovative harmonic technique. Offertorium (1980) is an excellent case study of Gubaidulina’s harmonic technique because it exhibits sophisticated chordal progressions and control of pitch space at both micro and macro levels of structure. Through a cyclical arrangement of chords with varying degrees of dissonance, Gubaidulina establishes harmonic motion and structural continuity. Gubaidulina is a composer who continuously expanded her creative palette, she never disposed of any technical devices, instead, she refined and built on earlier compositions. In addition, this study supports the research findings by drawing on examples from Gubaidulina’s early, middle and late periods.

Offertorium (1980) opens with a quotation of J.S. Bach’s Musical Offering theme are transposed to d minor. The theme is presented through a klangfarbenmelodie technique reminiscent of Anton Webern and is then systematically disassembled as the work unfolds. Once the theme has been completely “offered” the music wanders adrift harmonically before returning to a harmonically stable chorale. In the final section of the work, the musical Musical Offering theme is reconstructed in retrograde. The return of the theme is often discussed as a symbol of “resurrection”, from a theoretical perspective this is a thematic and harmonic return that functions to close the composition.

The first section of this study will focus on Gubaidulina’s use of binary harmonic functions as a means of creating harmonic continuity. In Offertorium (1980) and many later works, Gubaidulina constructs chordal progressions in which harmonic tension is simultaneously resolved and maintained. A number of other harmonic devices and processes will be examined in relation to these types of binary functions. The second section of this study will focus on Gubaidulina’s construction of dual-root tonic functions, through the use of triad-based polychords Gubaidulina is able to tonicize two or more pitch centers. Particular emphasis will be placed on the analysis of the atypical dominant-tonic relationships between tri-tone related chords.

Gubaidulina’s highly-technical compositional approach and yet her employment of various compositional devices remains enigmatic. Distinct elements of herharmonic language such as chromaticism, diatonicism, microtonality and others have been identified yet the aggregative functions of such elements are yet to be studied. The focus of this research is Gubaidulina’s use of binary harmonic functions, double-tonic functions, the intersections between functional tonality and atonality, symmetrical structures and other harmonic techniques.


Fig. 1 Sound file: https://www.lawrencewilde.com/path-to-kailas

Sound file: https://www.lawrencewilde.com/path-to-kailas



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