Riemann and Melodic Analysis

Matthew Gelbart and Alexander Rehding

in The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Riemannian Music Theories

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

  Riemann and Melodic Analysis

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This article discusses Riemann's Folkloristische Tonalitätsstudien or “Studies in Folk-Musical Tonality”. While his study at a glance seemed to contradict his earlier beliefs on tonality as a natural and universal system, his study however, sought to reinforce the natural basis of the tonal system by looking and examining non-European repertoires. Riemann's Folkloristische Tonalitätsstudien is unique among his studies in that it is his only treatise that does not start out from the assumption of tonal triadic harmonies; instead, it approaches musical structures from a strictly melodic angle. In this article, the focus is on Riemann's melodic analysis and evolutionary history of scalar models. It focuses on his analysis of pentatonicism and tetrachords. In his Folkloristische Tonalitätsstudien, Riemann is generally careful not to commit to a chronology, but supplies instead heuristic links between structural stages. While his explanation of tetrachords as three-note fragments of pentatonic scales with infixed pien is historically doubtful, his study nevertheless allowed him to examine all scalar systems as combinations of these two principles. Thus, his study on folk music has been pressed into service to represent a middle ground between strict pentatonicism and modern diatonism.

Keywords: Folkloristische Tonalitätsstudien; tonal system; musical structures; melodic angle; melodic analysis; scalar models; pentatonicism; tetrachords; folk music

Article.  10832 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Music Theory and Analysis

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