Joseph Delaplace

Dialectic Continuity/Discontinuity: An Instrument for the Analysis of 20th Century Music?

In the 20th century, musical composition has frequently put into question certain formal balances which had previously endured. In the most progressive part of the written compositions, it is now impossible to subsume the dialectic of continuity / discontinuity under the tonal logic. The tension, if not rupture, between the process and its elements is thereby brought into question. Correspondingly, since this issue between continuous and discontinuous relationship acquires a leading role in writing, it can perhaps explain and connect the concepts of structure and form, which are too often apprehended either as a single entity (the ‘formal structure’), or as appertaining respectively to the bottom and the surface, or the background and foreground, without highlighting the relationships that develop from one to the other. This paper aims to clarify the dialectical works which pertain to the continuity / discontinuity opposition in non- tonal forms and to forge analytical tools for such an approach. It does so with recourse to music of Schoenberg, Varèse and Ligeti, and to spectral music and repetitive music.