Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Alban Berg composed his Four Songs between 1908 and 1910; they were published in the latter year as his Op. 2. This was a critical period for Berg as for his mentor, Arnold Schoenberg, and his colleague Anton Webern. The latter two composers both later remembered 1908 as the year all three of them abandoned traditional tonality and began to write "atonal" music. There are problems, however, with the categories "tonal" and "atonal." Webern denied that the shift from one to the other really involved any radical change in how they handled pitch materials in their music. In Berg's Four Songs questions of tonality and atonality appear to be central: the first three of these songs are usually held to be still (barely) tonal, while the last song is often termed Berg's first atonal composition.;In the present thesis the author examines issues of tonality and atonality through an analytic study of pitch design in the Four Songs. Underlying this analysis is a preference to regard tonality and atonality not as opposite principles, but as complementary contexts in which pitch structure may be understood. Tonality, in this view, involves structural designs that address specific pitch classes. Atonality involves designs that invoke purely intervallic properties of pitch materials. All four songs in Berg's opus may therefore be seen to project both tonal and atonal elements of pitch structure. This approach has the effect of maintaining a sense of continuity across the analyzed structure of all the songs.;The analysis ltseIf begins with a general introduction to the pitch materials and relationships of the songs. A separate chapter is then devoted to the analysis of each song. These analyses are both detailed, often examining the same pitches from a number of viewpoints, and comprehensive, covering virtually every note in the songs. The analyses stress not only Berg's adoption of novel pitch resources but also his awakening to new possibilities of structure in traditional resources. Especially crucial in three of the songs is Berg's integration of the tonal and atonal implications of whole-tone materials.



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