South African Music Studies

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A semiotic investigation into dialectical opposition in Schoenberg’s Third String Quartet, first movement

C Jeffery


The article begins with a semiotic analysis of the first movement of Arnold Schoenberg’s Third String Quartet, Op.30, the purpose of which is to investigate the extent to which order-number partitioning plays a supporting role in the overall form of the movement. Contrary to standard semiotic practice, the entire series, rather than the motif, is used
as the unit of signification. Each individual series statement is assigned to a particular category based on order-number partitioning. The results of the analysis show a strong correlation between order-number partitioning and the arch form of the work. I interpret this as a contrast or ‘dialectical opposition’ of contiguous versus fragmented order-number partitioning between thematic and developmental areas. This opposition between thematic and developmental treatment of material, which I understand as pivotal to the creation of dramatic contrast within the movement, is then used as a model for the investigation of other serial and non-serial dialectical oppositions, which are analysed in terms of the extent to which they play a part in this overarching opposition. The article concludes with
a summary of the oppositions examined, showing how their interaction with the general thematic/developmental opposition assists in the creation of dramatic contrast.
AJOL African Journals Online