Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)



Committee Chair

Douglas Rust

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Danny Beard

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Joseph Brumbeloe

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Edward Hafer

Committee Member 4 School



This thesis aims to compare Korngold’s treatment of altered states of reality in his 1920 opera Die tote Stadt to that of other composers and apply a theoretical approach to explain the transitions between the diegetic realms, or multiple narrative levels, that the work is contained within. These are outlined by William Cheng in his article entitled “Opera ‘en abyme’: The prodigious ritual of Korngold’s ‘Die tote Stadt.’” An overview of Cheng’s article is provided, recounting the claims that he posits and the analyses that he uses to explain the transitions between these diegetic realms. Next, other instances of altered states of reality in compositions and research are considered; Katherine Syer’s dissertation entitled “Altered States: Musical and Psychological Processes in Wagner” is used to draw aesthetic comparisons between Korngold’s Die tote Stadt and Wagner’s operatic output. Finally, an analysis of meter is employed to explain three passages that represent diegetic transitions within the work. The use of metrical ambiguity in these passages aids in creating a sonic environment that smooths the transitions.

Included in

Music Theory Commons