Competing "Windows of Order": The Dialectics of System-Construction and -Withdrawal in Berg's Sonata for Piano, Op. 1

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Abstract

This article reads Berg's Piano Sonata in the context of a paradox fundamental to fin-de-siècle Viennese musical aesthetics—namely, the need to move beyond convention for expressive advantage while recognizing the inexorability of convention for music's "autonomy principle" (Dahlhaus). On the one hand, the Sonata displays a "systemic impulse," in its attempts to build a new system following the abnegation of common-practice tonality—a "whole-tone tonality," which derives from a specific pairing of interval cycles 1 and 2 (Perle). At the same time, the Sonata acknowledges the aesthetic insincerity of this ambition, which plays out in a "negative impulse," whereby the work seeks to destroy the very system it creates in a manner reflective of musique informelle and the "death urge" in Berg's music in general (Adorno).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-327
JournalTheory and Practice
Volume33
StatePublished - 2008

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