Three Short Essays on Neo-Riemannian Theory

Daniel Harrison

in The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Riemannian Music Theories

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Three Short Essays on Neo-Riemannian Theory


This article presents a three-section discussion, exploring the specific interrelated themes and questions central to the transformational and neo-Riemannian enterprise. The first section discusses the natures of musical objects and relations within the transformational worldview. It asks what happens when tones and chords are imagines not as objects but as transformations. The second section delves further into the object/transformation dichotomy. It explores the structural and functional differences among dissonant and consonant trichords in a particular nonatonic cycle. It also explores how the voice-leading functional and set-theoretical implications of the cycle might be engaged by a transformational perspective as a means to impart “sensuous distinctions”. The last section examines the analytical implications of the first two sections, by examining Vaughan Williams's neo-modal triadic Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

Keywords: neo-Riemannian enterprise; tones; chords; transformations; object/transformation dichotomy; dissonant trichords; consonant trichords; nonatonic cycle

Article.  11095 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Music Theory and Analysis

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