Grundgestalt and diatonic/octatonic interaction in Chopin's Ballades
Noland, Kaori Katayama
When published 1836, Chopin's first Ballade in G minor, Op. 23, was not only the first instrumental ballade of his own, but also the first ballade ever written without words. Since Chopin himself never disclosed any literature behind his idea, a question arises: how did he express the narrative nature of the Ballades in his purely instrumental music? The purpose of this dissertation is to explore Chopin's logic and the coherence that governs and connects every detail of the piece and how he "narrates" without words in his instrumental works. I use two compositional and analytical ideas established by Schoenberg-- Grundgestalt and tonal network--to explore Chopin's compositional idea. According to Schoenberg, the real compositional idea of tonal music is how balance is restored. The Grundgestalt becomes the source of conflict and unity throughout the Ballades while the story unfolds, and the balance is restored in a unique way in each Ballade. I attempt to apply two features of Grundgestalt : functional Grundgestalt , which is responsible for the piece's structural development, and motivic Grundgestalt , which creates thematic development. Another focus of the dissertation is how Chopin's excursion to the outskirts of the tonal boundary, the manifestation of octatonic pitch collections, was created and later assimilated into the tonal structure. Traditionally, the use of octatonic scales was considered a tool for much later compositions, typically in the early twentieth-century works of Russian composers such as Stravinsky. However, recent research reveals that the application of the octatonic scale goes back considerably farther. Chopin's use of the octatonic scale is for the most part manifested by tonally ambiguous chords, such as diminished 7th chords and modal mixtures, to lengthen octatonic pitch-sets already existing in diatonic scales. Although Chopin's application of octatonic scales is subtle, it usually relates to other sections of the piece motivically and is smoothly integrated into his tonal scheme and graceful style of writing.