Milos Zatkalik

Teleological Strategies of Non-Tonal Music: The Case of Milan Mihajlovic

Whereas tonal music is strongly goal-oriented with goals given a priori, goals in non-tonal music are either determined contextually, or the whole idea of motion towards a goal is abandoned. The present paper will examine various teleological strategies applied in the composition Eine kleine Trauermusik by contemporary Serbian composer Milan Mihajlović. It is based almost exclusively on the octatonic scale, which is highly entropic, lacks means for establishing a hierarchy of pitches and its potential for projecting goals seems rather feeble. A certain degree of centricity is achieved nonetheless, and these contextually created tonal centers may constitute goals.

Next, as in many non-tonal works, aggregate completion plays a certain goal-defining role. Of particular interest, however, is the extension of the completion model, as it instantiates a broader non-tonal teleological strategy.  Namely, the goal is defined as the exhaustion of all entities within a given ‘family of entities’, i.e. all pitch classes belonging to the given scale; all possible transpositions of a given collection; all interval classes etc. In my earlier research, I have demonstrated such completion processes in several works by Lutosławski, Messiaen, Ligeti etc.
Though frequently a subject of debate in non-tonal contexts, prolongational analysis (relying on several approaches, most substantially on the one proposed by Olli Väisälä) does reveal meaningful connections over longer spans within this composition, and sheds light on its goal-reaching motion.
Finally, the Mozart quotation appearing towards the end suggests certain narrative, and possible aesthetic and ideological interpretations. Their contribution to the teleology of this composition will be briefly addressed.