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Formal functions of metrical dissonance in the music of Paul Hindemith Mak, Yung Cheung

Abstract

A close examination of Paul Hindemith's compositions shows that metrical conflict is his favorite means to create rhythmic interest. The methodology in this study includes Harald Krebs's layers of motion, John Roeder's concept of pulse-streams, and Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff s theory of grouping. In an attempt to relate metrical dissonance in his compositions to other aspects of musical organization, my research reveals that Hindemith consciously manipulates metrical conflict in certain passages for particular musical purposes, for instance, to prepare for a change of tonality or the entry of a subject, to create points of tension, to intensify the build-up of a climax, and to provide a link between sections. As a compositional resource, metrical conflict is used to increase sectional contrast and so to articulate the form. It is a means of variation in the restatements of a theme, and can be a textural characteristic of an entire movement. Metrical dissonance is even exploited in the context of sonata form so that the conflict becomes the reference, while metrical consonance provides variety. The compositional use of metrical conflict was not a sudden development but involved a gradual process of experimentation in Hindemith's music. Some of his compositions use metrical conflict sparingly and experimentally while others exploit it in large-scale process. Hence, he does not use it excessively. Indeed, some of his compositions entirely lack this rhythmic quality, but his interest in metrical dissonance persisted throughout his whole life.

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