Analysis in Context, Dr Kenneth Smith


In this episode, Kenneth Smith explores some basic and intuitive analytical methods in conjunction with contextual information to demonstrate how analysis can be used as a tool to sharpen and enrich our appreciation of music. A short piano piece by the Russian twentieth-century composer Alexander Skryabin will be analysed on three different levels, as an example of the insights that analysis can offer to listeners and performers.


Music Examples

Skryabin, Poème, Op. 32, no. 1: Reduction of Bars 1-4.

Skryabin, Poème, Op. 32, no. 1: Reduction of Bars 15-23.

Skryabin, Poème, Op. 32, no. 1: Formal & Harmonic Plan.


Recommended Recording

Scriabin playing Poeme Op. 32 No. 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTTHm1KWrj4


Suggested Reading

Susanna Garcia, Alexander Skryabin and Russian Symbolism: Plot and Symbols in the Late Piano Sonatas (University of Texas, 1993).

Anna M. Gawboy and Justin Townsend, ‘Scriabin and the Possible’, Music Theory Online 18 (2012).

Simon Morrison, ‘Skryabin and the Impossible’, Journal of The American Musicological Society 51 (1998): 283–330.

Kenneth Smith, ‘”A Science of Tonal Love”? Drive and Desire in Twentieth-Century Harmony: The Erotics of Skryabin’, Music Analysis 29 (2010): 234-63.

Kenneth M. Smith, Skryabin, Philosophy and the Music of Desire (Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013).

Jason Stell, ‘Music as Metaphysics: Structure and Meaning in Skryabin’s Fifth Piano Sonata’, Journal of Musicological Research 23 (2004): 1–37.

Richard Taruskin, ‘Scriabin and the Superhuman: A Millennial Essay’, in Defining Russia Musically (Princeton University Press, 1997).