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Title: The key to Beethoven : connecting tonality and meaning in his music
Author: Ellison, Paul Martin
ISNI:       0000 0001 2459 9124
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2010
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My interest in the connection between tonality and meaning in Beethoven's music arose when writing a graduate paper on the use of key characteristics in Mozart's Don Giovanni and Beethoven's Fidelio. In the course of my research, I observed a remarkable correlation between key and tonal affect, and found myself questioning whether this would hold true for all of Beethoven's vocal music, and, if so, might also be applicable to his untexted instrumental works. An initial survey of Beethoven's complete solo song output, in order to ascertain if a firm connection between tonality and affective meaning could be established, proved to be extremely fertile, paving the way for the inception of this thesis. The Introduction outlines a justification for revisiting the concept of meaning in Beethoven's music. Chapter One builds the historical case for Beethoven's knowledge of key characteristics, examining materials with which he was familiar, his own views, and various anecdotal evidence. Chapter Two presents a survey of the keys employed by Beethoven, using evidence from contemporary writers, theorists, and composers to establish congruency of affective meaning. The ironic usage of tonal affect is discussed, and the supposed paradox of keys having more than one affective meaning explained. Beethoven's establishment of new affective uses of certain keys is also detailed. Chapters Three to Five identify the significant body of empirical evidence which connects tonality and meaning in an examination of the solo songs, revealing the strong nexus between textual meaning and choice of key in almost all cases. Certain ancillary features are also used as supporting evidence, including movement headings, descriptive titles, dynamics, interval structure, and harmonic vocabulary. The concepts of the `affective spectrum', `affective modulation', `affective tonicization', `affective modality' and `depictive harmony' are introduced and applied to the music. Chapter Six examines five case studies from vocal and choral music with orchestral accompaniment, in order to illustrate how tonal symbolism can function in a wider variety of contexts in Beethoven's oeuvre. Finally, Chapter Seven presents an instrumental case study, the Piano Sonata in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2, applying the semiotic of affect established earlier as the principal tool for deconstructing meaning in this work. This thesis demonstrates through a combination of historical and empirical evidence that, in most instances, Beethoven does employ tonality in an affective way in his vocal music, paving the way for an examination of his instrumental music for the nexus between tonality and meaning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available