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Axial pitch organization in Penderecki's a cappella works Goheen, Jonathan Robert


The language of Krzysztof Penderecki's a cappella music has changed dramatically. At the beginning of his career, his adoption of avant-garde compositional methods resulted in a complex, eclectic musical language that he maintained and developed until the late 1970's. His music after that, however, took on a very different surface. Gone were serialist techniques in favor of a much more diatonic music producing a strong modality and focus, and so there seems to be a clear stylistic division between his early and late works. However, as this study will show, a closer examination reveals the seeds of his later music in his modernist works. Within the dense chromatic surface of the early music, accented pitches acquire focus through durational, dynamic, or registral accent. In the later works, there are also clear focal pitches, often acting as the roots of traditional harmonic sonorities. However the overall organization of these focal roots is non-traditional. Drawing on the axis tonality theories of Erao Lendvai, which describes Bartok's harmonic practice, this paper will show how the focus pitches in both the early and late works can be heard as organized about a tonic. It appears that Penderecki developed a hierarchy of pitch in which the tonic and its T6-related pc were considered as part of an enlarged tonic set, later including the T3 and T9-related pes as well. Despite the substantial changes in his musical language, axial methods of organization occur throughout his choral works.

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