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Desire in Chromatic HarmonyA Psychodynamic Exploration of Fin de Siècle Tonality$
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Kenneth M. Smith

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190923426

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190923426.001.0001

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The Thanatotic and the Tonnetz

The Thanatotic and the Tonnetz

Repetition, Mourning, and “Mother” in Suk’s Asrael

Chapter:
(p.234) Chapter Six The Thanatotic and the Tonnetz
Source:
Desire in Chromatic Harmony
Author(s):

Kenneth M. Smith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190923426.003.0006

The chapter describes how the Andante from Josef Suk’s Asrael Symphony is a funeral march in all but name. It celebrates the lives of Suk’s teacher Dvořák and his wife Otilie, whose death during the work’s composition famously changed the projected optimistic tone. The various moods of this movement hang together because of a heavily asserted inner pedal of d♭, heard prominently in various instruments throughout. This pitch is never dissonant, and chords are constructed around it in such a way as to replicate a perfect hexagon on the common neo-Riemannian graphical Tonnetz. The associations of death with limited harmonic progression are aligned with Freud’s essay “Mourning and Melancholia.” The same compositional technique occurs in each of the five pieces from About Mother, Op. 28. The dual association held by this technique between maternal warmth and death leads to a critique of the basic Freudian death drive inspired by Lacan, Deleuze, and Lyotard. A flexible approach to the Tonnetz is adumbrated, which allows for the integration of tense tetrachords.

Keywords:   Josef Suk, Tonnetz, Mourning, Deleuze, Death drive, Lyotard

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