Monotonality and scalar modulation in Sibelius’s Tapiola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Sibelius’s late tone poem Tapiola is routinely held up as an exceptional example of a piece that is both monothematic and monotonal. Nevertheless, the broader notion of tonality transmitted by Tapiola invites deeper investigation, since tonality by the early twentieth century is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, a feature true especially of Sibelius’s later compositions. Sibelius’s tonal practice in Tapiola is based neither on first-practice functional harmony nor on second-practice triadic chromaticism but rather on the use of distinct scale collections and their interaction with the thematic process, whereby the network of pitch relations becomes drawn into the unfolding of the work’s motivic logic. It is argued that, under Sibelius’s extreme thematicism, melodic organization intersects with macroharmony and scale, blurring the distinction between hierarchical levels of pitch organization and ultimately between the work’s monothematicism and its sense of tonality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85–118
JournalJournal of Music Theory
Issue number1
Early online date1 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Jean Sibelius
  • scale collections
  • tapiola
  • tonality


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