Sibelius’s late tone poem Tapiola is routinely held up as an exceptional example of a piece that is both monothematic and monotonal. Nevertheless, the broader notion of tonality transmitted by Tapiola invites deeper investigation, since tonality by the early twentieth century is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, a feature true especially of Sibelius’s later compositions. Sibelius’s tonal practice in Tapiola is based neither on first-practice functional harmony nor on second-practice triadic chromaticism but rather on the use of distinct scale collections and their interaction with the thematic process, whereby the network of pitch relations becomes drawn into the unfolding of the work’s motivic logic. It is argued that, under Sibelius’s extreme the-maticism, melodic organization intersects with macroharmony and scale, blurring the distinction between hierarchical levels of pitch organization and ultimately between the work’s monothematicism and its sense of tonality.
Monotonality and Scalar Modulation in Sibelius’s Tapiola
Benedict Taylor teaches at the Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh. His recent publications include The Melody of Time: Music and Temporality in the Romantic Era (2016) and Towards a Harmonic Grammar of Grieg’s Piano Music (2017). He is coeditor of Music and Letters and serves on the editorial board of Music Analysis.
Benedict Taylor; Monotonality and Scalar Modulation in Sibelius’s Tapiola. Journal of Music Theory 1 April 2018; 62 (1): 85–118. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00222909-4450648
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