Music Theory on the Radio: Theme and Temporality in Hans Keller's First Functional Analysis

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Department 1

Conservatory of Music


Hans Keller described his ‘functional analysis’ (FA) as ‘the musical analysis of music’. Heavily influenced by his studies in Freudian psychology, he believed that his method would reveal ‘the latent unity behind manifest contrasts’ without using any labels or descriptive prose. In an effort to make explicit to his listeners what he believed to have been the composer's own unified perception of the work, he composed sets of between‐movement interludes that extracted, juxtaposed and modified prominent themes; he also included intervals of silence during which listeners were to reflect on what they had just heard. This article explores Keller's first functional analysis, of Mozart's Quartet in D minor, K. 421, which reveals his interest in the relationships between the motives and themes of a given movement, and in the motivic connections and thematic transformations across movements. Through Keller's re‐arrangements of motives and themes, the listener is meant to hear one motive gradually transforming into another. The FA is thus revealed as a style of analysis whose form – a musical performance – mirrors its content: a mediation between the listening experience and the non‐linear temporality of compositional labour.



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