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Brian Moseley

Music theorist at the University at Buffalo.

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This is the first in set of three weeks devoted to “Transformation theory,” a discipline that has its origins in the writings of David Lewin and which has had enormous influence on the current state of music theory.

“Classical” transformation theory is the subject of this week. Many of the most important readings in transformation theory, including Lewin’s treatise Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations, are not included here, mostly because the technical apparatus developed there is very difficult to grapple with in a single week.

We will also deal this week, for the first time, with “post-tonal” music. Those of you that have never studied “pitch-class set theory” are urged to have a copy of Joseph Straus’s Post-Tonal Theory at hand, or my own post-tonal resources, collected in Open Music Theory.

David Lewin, “Transformational Techniques in Atonal and Other Music Theories,” Perspectives of New Music 21, no. 1/2 (October 1, 1982): 312–29; paragraph ending ‘And the transformation-graphs and networks are essential to a precise formulation of that strong relationship.”

David Lewin, “Some Notes on Pierrot Lunaire,” in Music Theory in Concept and Practice, ed. James Baker, David Beach, and Jonathan Bernard (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1997): 433-58.

John Roeder, “Constructing Transformational Signification: Gesture and Agency in Bartók’s Scherzo, Op. 14, No. 2, measures 1–32.” Music Theory Online 15/1 (2009).

John Roeder, “Transformational Aspects of Arvo Pärt’s Tintinnabuli Music,” Journal of Music Theory 55/1 (2011): 1-42.