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Transformational Attitudes in Scandinavian Function Theories

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In his 1988 review of David Lewin's Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations, Bo Alphonce suggested that Swedish function theory was already "transformational," a comment that was subsequently quoted in several neo-Riemannian texts that furthermore gave the impression that the transformational attitude was characteristic for Scandinavian function theory on whole. This article tests this claim by investigating a large corpus of Scandinavian textbooks from the 20th and 21st centuries. First, the reception history of Scandinavian function theory is outlined, revealing how theorists have influenced each other and identifying three different types of function theory—key-relational, interval-relational, and progressional theories—that became most influential in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, respectively. Then, the presence of "transformational attitudes" is discussed in a series of analytical examples from the textbook corpus. While it is found that the attitude is generally lacking in most Scandinavian theory, there are some transformational perspectives in certain publications, especially in the 1981 textbook Indføring i romantisk harmonik by Danish theorists Teresa Waskowska Larsen and Jan Maegaard. Finally, Larsen and Maegaard's function theory is reframed in a more explicitly transformational light. The result is an analytical approach that integrates chord-to-chord transformations in a functional, tonal context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheory and Practice
Volume43
Pages (from-to)77-110
Number of pages34
ISSN0741-6156
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Function theory, Functional Theory, Neo-Riemannian Theory, Riemannian Theory, Transformational Theory, David Lewin, Music Theory, Scandinavian Music Theory

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