Research Colloquium: Oliver Chandler
April 28 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm
An event every week that begins at 5:15 pm on Tuesday, repeating until June 16, 2020
Oliver Chandler (Anglia Ruskin) | Octatonic Voice Leading and Diatonic Function in Elgar’s String Quartet in E minor, Op. 83: a critique of neo-Riemannian theory
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Annabelle Page and George Haggett organise the series. Presentations are followed by discussion and a drinks reception. Students, staff, and the general public are warmly encouraged to attend.
In this paper, I focus on a short, two-bar passage from the end of the development section of the finale of Edward Elgar’s String Quartet in E minor, Op. 83, which explores smooth voice-leading relationships between octatonic-polar seventh chords. I look to ascertain whether this short passage can be heard to form part of a larger, coherent tonal gesture or if it effects a change of syntax which swaps the movement’s predominantly diatonic frame of reference for an octatonic one and thus establishes a moment of disjuncture within the form. My answer to this question is informed by analysis both of the passage in question and of earlier (albeit less piquant and transparent) instances of octatonic voice leading in the exposition. Ultimately, I argue against the increasingly prevalent neo-Riemannian position that various kinds of chromatic progression are ‘non-tonal’: in Elgar’s case, such judgements not only fail to register the essential functional characteristics of his music, but they also cut against the grain of his own documented musings on the nature of chromatic tonality.