Musical brokenness, intentionality, and the singer-actor:
A view from the stage
Dr. Edward D. Latham
Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University, USA
email@example.com - http://www.temple.edu/boyer
Dr. Roberta Sloan
School of Communications and Theater, Temple University, USA
firstname.lastname@example.org - http:// www.temple.edu/sct
Proceedings of the fourth Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM08)
Thessaloniki, Greece, 3-6 July 2008, http://web.auth.gr/cim08/
Background in music theory and analysis. Recent examinations of the intentionality of musical structure (Almén,
2006), the relationship between analysis and performance (Latham, 2006), and the use of interdisciplinary methods
for the analysis of opera (Abbate, 2001) provide a basis for the present study. From a ‘New Schenkerian’ perspective
that incorporates recent contributions on the meaning of musical structure (Burstein, 2006; Brown, 2005; Everett,
2004; Schachter, 1999), this paper will propose two alternative models of background structure—the permanent
interruption and the multi-movement Ursatz (Latham, 2005)—that are better able to represent the musico-dramatic
structures of opera and, by extension, other large-scale or fractured works. Examples will be given from the operas of
Joplin and Weill, and particular emphasis will be placed on the potential impact of the new analytical models for
Background in performance. This paper will use Constantin Stanislavsky’s concept of the dramatic objective as a
starting point for its discussion of performance, particularly as it relates to the Schenkerian concept of interruption, or
failure to achieve linear closure. The ongoing publication by Routledge Press of a new English translation of the
complete works of Stanislavsky (Carnicke, 1993) indicates the continued relevance of his theories for present-day
actors and directors. Historically neglected by students of “the Method,” Stanislavsky’s system of objectives
(Stanislavsky, 1961; Hagen, 1991; Levin, 1992 and 2002) can lend valuable insights into dramatic structure and re-
open the question of intentionality for texted musical works. A particular character’s failure to achieve his or her
dramatic objective will be considered a dramatic interruption and will be discussed with regard to its potential
correlation with music-structural interruptions. The status of Stanislavsky’s system as a practical tool intended for use
by performers will be discussed and compared with Schenkerian theory, which, though still far from attaining it,
aspires to a similar status.
Aims. We aim to expand Schenkerian theory by opening it to other disciplines, particularly dramatic theory, and to
re-examine the question of intentionality in light of our findings on the correlations between musical and dramatic
structure. Through our synthesis of two different fields of inquiry (music theory and dramatic theory), we hope to
reinvigorate analysis and performance studies, particularly of vocal music.
Main contribution. Most analyses of dramatic vocal music (song cycles, operas, operettas, oratorios, etc.) tend to
focus almost exclusively on either the musical or textual elements of the work. This paper provides a synthesis of
musical and dramatic structure that addresses the controversial issue of intentionality by focusing on character.
Implications. Studies like this one will empower singers to join the emerging dialogue on analysis and performance
by referring directly to their character-based perspective on opera. The approach taken here also raises the possibility
of infusing musical insights into the analysis of roles by opera directors and singer-actors during the rehearsal
process. If it can also help to foster the development of “inter-artistic” collaborations that draw on historical and
methodological insights from within the arts, promote the expansion of Schenkerian theory to include insights from
other disciplines, and/or point toward a re-examination of intentionality for music analysis, then it will have
accomplished everything the authors could have hoped for and more.
There is a perceived ‘knowledge gap’ between
singers and music theorists, who are
stereotypically placed at opposite ends of the
intellectual spectrum in casual descriptions of
the music conservatory environment.
Although most singers begin the formal study
of their craft later than instrumentalists, it
would be a mistake to assume that they do
not have equally valuable insights to offer
with regard to music theory and analysis.
They are often highly attuned to aspects of
melodic structure, register, and timbre, and
they deal with text/music relationships on a
daily basis. Moreover, a significant portion of
CIM08 - Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology - Proceedings
(Moses und Aron), in addition to the composers studied
in this book, considered their lone operas to be their
2 Schachter (1999), 309. The title of the recent
Festschrift for Schachter testifies to his belief in the
meaning inherent in tonal structure. See Almén (2006).
3 Edward T. Cone, “Schubert’s Promissory Note: An
Exercise in Musical Hermeneutics,” Nineteenth-Century
Music 5/3 (1982): 233.
4 Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker, “On Analyzing
Opera,” in Analyzing Opera: Verdi and Wagner, ed.
Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1989), 4. For a recent and thorough list
of Schenker’s most important publications as well as
secondary sources on Schenkerian theory, see David
Carson Berry, A Topical Guide to Schenkerian Literature:
An Annotated Bibliography With Indices (Hillsdale, NY:
Pendragon, 2004). See also David Damschroder, Music
Theory From Zarlino to Schenker: A Bibliography and
Guide (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1990), 304-17;
Nicholas Rast, “A Checklist of Essays and Reviews by
Heinrich Schenker,” Music Analysis 7/2 (July 1988): 121-
32; and Larry Laskowski. Heinrich Schenker: An
Annotated Index to His Analyses of Musical Works (New
York: Pendragon Press, 1978).
5 See William Rothstein, “The Americanization of Heinrich
Schenker,” In Theory Only 9/1 (1986): 5-17. Reprinted
in Schenker Studies, ed. Hedi Siegel (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990), 193-203.
6 The misperception that Schenker privileged the
fundamental structure at the expense of the musical
surface is perpetuated largely by the current practice of
teaching Schenkerian analysis in a large university
seminar format, instead of in individual instructional
sessions, as Schenker taught the system to his first
students. The lack of individual instruction leads
inevitably to a greater focus on the Ursatz as a
consensus builder in classroom discussion. In actuality,
as a performer and conductor, Schenker considered the
musical surface (the foreground) of equal importance for
its integral and aurally salient interrelationship with the
background. On the importance of the foreground, see
John Rothgeb, “Design as a Key to Structure in Tonal
Music,” Journal of Music Theory 15/1-2 (1971): 230-53.
For Schenker’s views on performance, see Heinrich
Schenker, The Art of Performance, ed. Heribert Esser and
trans. Irene Scott Schreier (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2000), and William Rothstein, “Analysis and the
Act of Performance,” in The Practice of Performance:
Studies in Musical Interpretation, ed. John S. Rink
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 217-40.
7 See David Smyth, “‘Balanced Interruption’ and the
Formal Repeat,” Music Theory Spectrum 15/1 (1993):
76, and Peter H. Smith, “Brahms and Schenker: A Mutual
Response to Sonata Form,” Music Theory Spectrum 16/1
(1994): 77. For a more recent discussion of the
interruption, see Irna Priore, “The Case for a Continuous
5: Expanding the Schenkerian Interruption Concept—
With Analytical Interpretations of Beethoven opp. 101,
109, and 111” (PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2004), and
“Further Considerations of the Continuous 5 With an
Introduction and Explanation of Schenker’s Five
Interruption Models,” Indiana Theory Review 25 (2004):
8 Schenker, Free Composition, 36-40. Carl Schachter,
however, includes interruption as an element of
background structure. See Schachter, “Structure as
9 Schenker, Free Composition, 36.
10 Ibid., 37.
11 Allen Cadwallader and David Gagné, Analysis of Tonal
Music: A Schenkerian Approach, second edition (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2007), 113.
13 Ibid., 168.
14 Schenker, Free Composition, 126 n6.
15 Though C major itself could provide adequate support
for C as primary tone, this would create an 8-line, which
is rare in the Schenkerian literature. The shift to A minor
establishes C as the would-be primary tone of a local 3-
line in No. 12, though a subsequent return to C major
prevents local closure to the tonic.