Motivic linkage and actantial pairing in Britten’s operas

Authored by: Michael Baker

The Routledge Handbook of Music Signification

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  March  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815376453
eBook ISBN: 9781351237536
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351237536-15

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Abstract

The carrying over of pitches from the end of one musical segment to form the beginning of the next is commonplace in twentieth-century music, and it represents one of the most comprehensible means of creating local continuity between musical gestures in neo-tonal and post-tonal music. 1 This device, called “linkage technique” by Heinrich Schenker, is widespread in music from the tonal tradition. 2 Linkage technique, however—with its inbuilt focus on the immediate repetition of surface-level motives—is applicable to a wide range of music, regardless of tonal implications or the lack thereof. Whereas motivic connections such as this can be found in many instrumental genres, opera composers may use this technique to depict subtle aspects of a character’s thoughts and motivations, either spoken or unspoken, as the drama continues to unfold on stage.

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