Photo: Fondazione Giorgio Cini


New Concepts of Harmony in Musical Composition: 1945-1975

Fondazione Giorgio Cini – Istituto per la Musica, Venice, Italy

After the Second World War, differentiation in musical language encouraged the emergence of harmony concepts that deviated from the classical functional harmony and tonality-breaking approaches of the first half of the 20th century. Musicological research in Venice now aims to take a closer look at the often very complex procedures of individual composers and to compare them. The starting points of the project are works by Boulez, Cage, Carter, Ligeti, Maderna, Messiaen, Stockhausen, Xenakis and B. A. Zimmermann. Through collaboration with experienced musicians, the impact of harmony concepts on performance will be explored and the significance of harmonic structures for musical analysis discussed. Investigation will focus on whether the triangular relationship between counterpoint, harmony and form is still valid for the music of the second half of the 20th century. Furthermore, it will examine whether melody is independent from harmonic structure or, conversely, whether the two dimensions are basically interchangeable. The significance and relevance of new categories such as field, texture and sound space will be examined and the effects of harmony planning on the form of the pieces will be discussed. Subsequently, the compositional technique and hierarchy of those elements constituting harmony in works by different composers will be discussed in order to define a shared horizon and formulate hypotheses about the significance for performance practice. On this last point the experience gained by the musical institution with various soloists of international standing will then be channeled into performance practice. The Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation is funding the research project.

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