Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


In the course of the past three decades pitch-class (pc) set theory has become the predominant instrument in analytic approaches to post-tonal music; many theorists have demonstrated its analytic efficacy and fruitfulness for a broad spectrum of music. But, despite its remarkable analytic capacity, set theory does not itself offer a means whereby to assess the relative significance of the musical events that it identifies. In the present study I propose a theory of post-tonal musical structure whose basis for interpreting the weight of a musical event engages to a large extent the operations of set theory itself. This theory, which I call the salience theory, engages three of the four classical set-theoretic relations--equivalence, complementarity, and inclusion--together with considerations of form, in its assessment of set-class salience.;The salience theory, of which Allen Forte's genera theory and a rather regimented segmentation strategy form two integral aspects, purports to model post-tonal compositions as series of events. Many events share structural and contextual properties, some of which I identify and specify as event-classes. Each pc set within a composition, through its association with event-classes, achieves a numerical ranking that reflects its relative salience--the more times a pc set instantiates and event-class, and the broader the range of event-classes it instantiates, the greater its structural role.;While the salience theory has generalizability as its ultimate goal, the purview of the present study is limited to selected atonal Lieder of Anton Webern. Analysis of the Lieder posits the especial salience of a small collection of set-classes and also establishes a correlation between many members of this collection and Forte's "atonal" Genus 8 and "chromatic" Genus 5. The predominance of these two genera also underscores a homogeneity of pitch resources among the five Lieder under consideration.;The salience theory proffers another vantage from which to explore post-tonal musical structure. In the conclusion to this study I suggest that the theory is amenable to extension, and that one might usefully restructure it to study the structural impact of musical parameters other than pitch.



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