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Thesis (M.M.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1960. Department of Music.


Copyright 1960, the author. Used by permission.

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One of the most significant trends in twentieth-century music is that which embodies an abandonment of all of the traditional concepts of tonality.Since it is conceivable that complete freedom of the twelve tones without some logical organization may result in a form of musical anarchy, any investigation of works in the atonal medium should, first of all, determine what devices are used to give order and logic to the work.These devices may then substitute for the cohesive force of tonality which is lacking in atonal works.In order to investigate the compositional devices of the atonalist writers, Wozzeck by Alban Berg was analyzed to determine what devices Berg has used to achieve unity and logic in a predominantly atonal work and how he has used them.

A work by Berg, and Wozzeck in particular, was chosen because of the reputation which each has in contemporary thought.Berg, along with Anton Webern, was one of the principal students and disciples of Arnold Schoenberg.The influence of Schoenberg is evident in much of Berg’s writing, and his talent was praised quite highly by his master.The total musical development of the opera will be discussed in relation to melody, rhythm, harmony, formal and motival development.I hope to show what a major work, which has largely forsaken tonality as a unifying device, has used as a substitute and how these devices attempt to achieve complete unity within the individual scenes and within the opera as a whole.

The most significant devices which Berg has used to achieve unity in Wozzeck are structure and motive.Other devices may be used in certain small sections.Tonality, harmony (in the form of a single chord), and rhythm are used briefly as unifying devices, but their significance is minor compared to structure and motive.

Advisor: Robert M. Beadell