Date of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)



Committee Chair

Dr. Douglas Rust

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Edward Hafer

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Joseph Brumbeloe

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Danny Beard

Committee Member 4 School



In his 2018 book A Theory of Virtual Agency, Robert Hatten briefly describes the potential to analyze atonal music through the lens of musical forces. These musical forces are phenomenological sensations listeners experience, akin to physical forces felt in daily life. Larson (2012) categorizes and explains these forces as gravity, magnetism, and inertia, but his work only applies them to tonal music.

Gravity is a universal force that exerts influence over the music on a global level. In a tonal context, this would be the tonic pitch, however in the absence of tonal hierarchy the locus of gravity comes from continuously emphasizing musical elements. Magnetism is no longer unstable pitches resolving to more stable pitches (as there are no stable pitches), but instead is intentional and gestural voice leading implying the motion of resolution. Inertia’s influence remains essentially the same; linear motion and motivic motion are present in both tonal and atonal music.

Analysis of three brief serial Stravinsky compositions shows evidence these forces do exist in serial contexts. Gravity is determined by the combination of the duration of a pitch, the pitch’s position in the row (specifically initial and final position), and duplications of that pitch in different voices. Magnetism transforms to a localized influence that ranges from implications of resolutions to pairings of specific pitches. Inertia remains similar. Motivic patterns and linear motion can be precompositionally set in the row, or various combinations of row forms could create sequences.

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