What is a Function?

Brian Hyer

in The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Riemannian Music Theories

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195321333
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

What is a Function?

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This article discusses Hugo Riemann's notion of a tonal or harmonic function, which he first introduced into musical-theoretical discourse, Vereinfachte Harmonielehre in 1893. Riemann's notion of a tonal function refers to either the chords or properties of chords, classified as: tonic, dominant, and subdominant. In this article, the focus is on the equation of “function” with “meaning”, because it is in this connection that the term “function” occurs for the first time, and because the equation forms the core of the later references to the idea. What follows is a critical appraisal rather than history of the concept. The aim in this article is to consider within broad but specific historical boundaries, the discursive potential of the term in Riemann's theoretical writings.

Keywords: tonal function; harmonic function; Vereinfachte Harmonielehre; chords; tonic; dominant; subdominant; equation of function

Article.  23399 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Music Theory and Analysis

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