Dr Thomas Husted Kirkegaard (University of Copenhagen)

2nd February 2023, 6.30pm UK TIME.

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The twentieth century saw numerous heated discussions between adherents of two influential music-theoretical traditions: post-Riemannian function theory and Schenkerian theory, dominating in Continental-European and Anglo-American music scholarship, respectively. A recurring theme in these discussions was the idea of harmonic function – a central term in function theory, of course, but frequently invoked in Schenkerian analyses, too. In this talk, I will take a closer look at some of these discussions, and I will argue that they talk past each other to a large extent: I will show that when it comes to the term “function,” function theory and Schenkerian theory make different claims about different (but similar) phenomena in tonal music, and that they do not necessarily contradict each other. I propose a theory of both function and functionality which may “function” simultaneously on two different levels. I hope that this can provide a fresh perspective on one of music theory’s all-time hot topics and open up to a more pluralistic and inclusive attitude in both Schenkerian and post-Riemannian analytical practices.