Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Music

Document Type



Chopin’s twenty-seven piano études display the composer’s poetic musical language, uniting keyboard techniques, virtuosity, and artistic imagery, while preserving Romantic lyricism and songfulness. Each of these studies is unique in its set of pianistic challenges, compositional processes, and difficulty level. Schenkerian analysis provides an interpretation of relationships between the notes that constitute the harmony and the melody. This type of analysis allows one to understand the theoretical aspects that are necessary to play Chopin’s études. The Schenkerian theories can be used to amalgamate pianism and performance with harmony and analysis. Furthermore, the Schenkerian understanding of these études provides an analytical dissection of the compositions that can help explain certain pianistic techniques by the notions of musical elaborations, which include arpeggiation, as seen in Op. 10 No. 1, chromaticism, as seen in Op. 10 No. 2, and linear progressions, as seen in Op. 10 Nos. 3 and 4. Throughout these four compositions, Chopin employs different levels of harmonic dissonance to create tension and to move between any two harmonic structures.

This study traces the amount of dissonance in each of the études, focusing on the intervallic makeup of Chopin’s harmonies. The notion of harmonic dissonance and consonance in music is established from two or more simultaneously played notes. There are multiple approaches into dissecting this concept, some of which are acoustical, mathematical, and psychological. This research uses the Interval Dissonance Rate (IDR) – a tool that integrates musical and mathematical analyses in non-monophonic Western music, using modified interval-class vectors (modicv) and the frequency of recurrent pitches to determine the percentage of dissonant and consonant verticalities. The connection between pianism, Schenkerian analysis, and computation of dissonance is a vital aspect to consider when understanding these études on both artistic and analytical levels.



Committee Chair

Peck, Robert

Included in

Music Theory Commons