Lukas Haselböck

Troping Processes and Irony in Songs by Schubert, Wolf and Mahler

Robert Hatten’s theory of “markedness” (Hatten 2004) allows important insights into the relationship between analysis, performance, and listening. Hatten presupposes a complex and steadily changing network of musical meanings in Beethoven’s music that correlates to structural aspects. In his analyses of this network, Hatten operates with structural and semantic oppositions (e.g. major/minor) which are subordinated to a process of growth. In specific cases of troping, original meanings associated with specific musical structures might be replaced by their opposites – e.g. in the case of irony where a sudden shift of discourse level can lead to a complete reversion of musical meaning.

In this paper, Hatten’s theory of troping and irony shall be applied to the tension between analysis and performance: In discussing comparatively recordings of selected songs by Schubert, Wolf and Mahler (including short live performances by the singer Bartolo Musil), I am focussing on the question whether it is possible to decode troping processes or irony in musical works. Which are the opportunities of performers in the process of troping structural/semantic oppositions? Does their interpretation enable them to reinforce or even to change radically established perception models of composed tropes or ironies? If this turns out to be true, the inclusion of aspects of performance into music analysis might change our way of analyzing musical works fundamentally.