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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Discord, intransigence, ambivalence, and ultimate coherence : relationships between the musical surface and its underlying structures in Fauré’s nocturne no. 6, op. 63 Lin, Hoi Wai


The Sixth Nocturne of Gabriel Fauré has long been acclaimed and widely performed. However, its musical and compositional values sadly lack reflection in the music-analytical literature. The Nocturne’s style is eclectic, incorporating chromatic, modal, and non-tonal (symmetric) collections into diatonic tonality. That the frame of traditional, functional tonality is made to accommodate these diverse constructs suggests many questions and implies the need for advanced analysis. In Chapter 1 I identify specific complexities encountered in this work, including deformed voice leading, temporally skewed counterpoint, subtle metric dissonance, recourse to the whole-tone and octatonic collections, modal mixture in local and global context, and ambiguity of tonic and dominant functions. Their presence serves as my justification in searching for a simpler, more fundamental and continuous underlying structure, of the sort aimed at by Schenkerian analysis. Because this type of analysis must be adapted for late nineteenth-century music, the Chapter also summarizes prior work along these lines that I found suggestive. A 1993 article by Edward Phillips was of primary importance to me, but I also summarize noteworthy contributions by James Sobaskie, Taylor Greer and Robert Morgan. Chapter 2 presents a complete Schenkerian two-leveled graph (the standard background graph is omitted), accompanied by a detailed commentary. Finally, Chapter 3 summarizes four significant structural features of the Nocturne that my experience suggests are of general importance to the composer’s style. They are 1) Discord: when what may seem “wrong” at the surface sounds “right” at a deeper level; 2) Intransigence: conflict in the harmonic-melodic structure due to skewed counterpoint and persisting, sometimes migratory scale degrees; 3) Ambivalence: blurring between tonic and dominant harmonies and 4) Coherence: modality and mixture in the large and the small. Ultimately, I hope this study successfully portrays the delightful equilibrium that constitutes the distinctive “flavor of Fauré”––between innovation and tradition, the clouded and the clear, the conflicted and the concordant; and that it captures some of the ways in which these balances operate, thereby shedding additional aesthetic light on one of the gems of the piano repertoire.

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