Daniel Shutko

Tjulin, Kushnarev, Bershadskaya: Leningrad School of Music Theory

One feature that distinguishes Leningrad school from Moscow and, partially, from Western tradition is that is concentrates not on musical text but on human dimension. It gives preference to psychological component of music theory. Thus, analysis and conceptualizations of Leningrad theorists include, as a main component, the aspects of musical perception, interpretation, and expression.
As a consequence, the musical objects are analyzed and conceptualized not in their atemporal structural dimension but as dynamic processes. Yuri Tjulin and Tatiana Bershadskaya were interested primarily in the condition of a musician here and now, in the shades of his or her psychological situation. Even such a robust and abstract concept as harmonic function received a dynamic reinterpretation: instead of clear-cut T-S-D-T model, Tjulin discussed ‘intermittent functions’, i.e., functions that change their meaning in the process of unfolding linear intervallic material.

Although Leningrad school has always been famous for systematic thinking, it has never lead theorists to a simplified schematicism. The field of music theory, which theorists of this school often call ‘hypersystem’ consists of several hierarchies of subsystems, such as metro-rhythm, texture, mode, thematicism, and form. Each element of such a subsystem participates in several hierarchies and therefore can have different definition. These meanings should not be conflated and both the categories and hierarchical levels should not be confused. With all that, each element can be used in the most flexible way.
Already from the first encounter, Leningrad school seems to be closer to Schenkerian position (priority of dynamic, process-like, linear dimension over the structural schematic abstractions), than to both Moscow school and the continental tradition of ‘Funktionslehre’. However, these differences and similarities are very fine and complex. They complement the picture of development of music theory in Russia and in the West.