Evaluating Prolongation in Extended Tonality

Robert T. Kelley

Here you will find my paper on prolongation in post-functional music. The research presented here comes from my dissertation work. The analytical model introduced in this paper is used to investigate the music of Ravel (specifically, "Ondine" from Gaspard de la Nuit), but may be applied to other neo-tonal musical repertoires. Feel free to contact me about my work: <>.

Evaluating Prolongation in Extended Tonality
(PDF format)


In my talk I shall offer strategies for deciding what is structural in extended-tonal music and provide new theoretical qualifications that allow for a conservative evaluation of prolongational analyses. While Straus (1987) provides several criteria for finding post-tonal prolongation, these can simply be reduced down to one important consideration: Non-tertian music clouds the distinction between harmonic and melodic intervals. Because linear analysis depends upon this distinction, any expansion of the prolongational approach for non-tertian music must find alternative means for defining the ways in which transient tones elaborate upon structural chord tones to foster a sense of prolongation. While a true prolongational perspective cannot be extended to address most post-tonal music, it may be possible to salvage a prolongational approach in a restricted body of post-tonal music that retains some features of tonality, such as harmonic function, parsimonious voice leading, or an underlying diatonic collection. Taking into consideration Straus's theoretical proviso, we can build a model for prolongational analysis of non-tertian music by establishing how non-tertian chords may attain the status of structural harmonies. Considerations in the evaluation of chordal salience include tonal function, acoustical stability, motivic significance, and participation in a reference collection. Provided an alternative means for deciding what chords are structural in non-tertian music, contrapuntal lines passing between any two structural chords can still aid in hearing a passage as a prolongation. These criteria for establishing prolongational spans will be applied to analysis of ``Ondine'' from Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit.

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