Ariane Jeßulat

Parsimonious Voice-Leading and 'Stimmführungsmodelle'

In Neo-Riemannian-Theory parsimonious voice-leading is a tool of mapping triadic spaces moving around the axis of the augmented triad. It guides harmonic analysis counting distances of minor or major triads by the smallest unit of a halftone-step of a single voice and observing the direction of the harmonic path in regions, which are less centered by a single chord than merely diatonic spaces of tonality.
In some cases the voice-leading that is to be heard, i. e. the foreground, seems to be the same or at least very close to the shape of parsimonious voice-leading, but it grounds on different principles. Further one may find a kind of interaction between parsimonious voice-leading and a known diatonic ‘Stimmführungsmodell’ as in the overture of Wagner´s Parsifal (Cohn 2006).
As Schenker and Riemann were influenced by the tradition of thoroughbass-practice taught through models of diatonic voice-leading there is a basic connection in the history of music theory, but in analytic detail it might be useful to explore the following issues:
- Are there possibilities to integrate details as neighbour-notes, melodic formulas or other standards of ‘Stimmführungsmodelle’, which are not in focus of parsimonious voice-leading, in an analysis using primarily tools of Neo-Riemannian-Theory?
- If parsimonious voice-leading is a reduction, there should be a kind of remarkable distance to musical foreground. In some triadic music of Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Hensel, Brahms or Wagner foreground seems to be its own reduction. Analysis of large-scale form might show the ‘lost details’, which are heard as a distance integrating the memorized development of harmonic and melodic progressions leading finally to a dense triadic harmony of a second nature (Cohn 2012).

- The voice-leading models collected in the famous Generalbass-Schule of Simon Sechter show a mixture of a systematic approach and some historic residua, in sum they are less distinct in style than 18th-century-models. Is there a chance to sketch a space of stylistic normality of diatonic models in the 19th century, which could divide them clearly from parsimonious voice-leading?