UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Motivic-harmonic implications in musical theater songs Ziegenhagel, Blaire


This thesis extends the research done by (among others) David Temperley (2007) and Drew Nobile (2015) on the "melodic-harmonic divorce" by attributing the individual harmonies conveyed only in the melody to the use of motives. Motives affirm these harmonies through a melodic-harmonic stasis in which salient pitches are heard as though they preserve the harmonic implications suggested by an earlier motivic iteration. I show that they can appear in various alterations (retrograde, inversion, and transposition) and that they have to ability to transform a traditional dissonant pitch into a non-triadic consonance over a given bass note because of the motive's tendency to repeat. These non-triadic consonances are explored in a system of "salient motivic tones" (SMTs) and "motivic chord tones" (MCTs). The former describes a tone that sounds as though it is operating independently to the rest of the harmony on the basis that it is part of a repeated motive. The latter is a subset of an SMT, describing a non-chord tone against the bass that still sounds consonant or "appropriate" because of its motivic link. MCTs also, despite preserving an independent melodic harmony, sound as though they are additive to the harmony in the rest of the ensemble, forming what is traditionally known as a chord extension. A system of graphically representing these MCTs and their associated motivic tones is outlined in Chapter 2. Critically, I discuss the ways in which the theory and its graphical representation can be used to augment narrative analyses of songs of musical theater. Musical theater, being derived from popular music styles, tends to make great use of MCTs and melodic-harmonic independence to reflect the conflict being portrayed in a song. I also remain cognizant of the emotional weight of MCTs and detail possible reasons a performer might place emphasis on them in addition to the standard text-painting considerations.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International