“Schoenberg and Fugue: Contrapuntal Combinations and Polymorphous Canon" with Severine Neff (Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Event Date: 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 3:30pm to 4:45pm

Event Date Details: 

Event Location: 

  • Music Room 1145

Event Price: 

Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

Event Contact: 

Adriane Hill
Marketing and Communications Manager
UC Santa Barbara Department of Music
(805) 893-3230
Severine Neff (Professor Emeritus of Music Theory at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) will present “Schoenberg and Fugue: Contrapuntal Combinations and Polymorphous Canon" on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 from 3:30-4:45 p.m. in Music Room 1145. 
Arnold Schoenberg was unquestionably one of the foremost teachers of European art music in the twentieth century. My lecture will specifically address his methods for understanding and teaching complex contrapuntal writing, above all, fugue. First I will consider Schoenberg’s central notion of “contrapuntal combination,” based on the belief that the varied repetition of a contrapuntal unit (e.g., a subject and countersubject or subject accompanying itself) generates any contrapuntal work. Secondly I will discuss his emphasis on the study of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century polymorphous canons in four to thirty-six or more voices. By composing of such polymorphous canons, students would attain a strong technique particularly in writing stretti for fugues. Ultimately, I will comment Schoenberg’s “Dorian Fugue with Two Subjects” written in 1943 as a model for his advanced graduate students at the University of California, Los Angeles. The fugue’s third section is a technical tour de force: five stretti in which the dux and comes appear in prime, inverted, transposed, retrograded, varied, and permuted forms. Schoenberg associated these techniques with Bach and in principle, with his twelve-tone method. Thus for Schoenberg, the study of fugue was an essential part of the path to free composition, the jumping-off-point to the spaciousness of pure creativity.
Severine Neff is the Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor of Music Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A scholar of Arnold Schoenberg’s music, she is an editor and commentator on his musical and theoretical works: The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of Its Presentation with Patricia Carpenter (Columbia, 1995; 2nd ed., Indiana, 2006; Chinese ed., Central Conservatory of Beijing Press, 2015); Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form (Nebraska ,1994); and The Second String Quartet in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 10: A Norton Critical Score (Norton, 2006). She is also an editor of The Rite of Spring at 100 with Maureen Carr, Gretchen Horlacher, and John Reef  (Indiana, 2017), cited by The New Yorker as one of the 2017 notable books in music. She has been a Senior Fulbright Scholar at Moscow State Conservatory and received several awards from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Currently she is preparing a volume of Schoenberg’s writings on counterpoint for the Oxford nine-volume collection entitled “Schoenberg in Words,” of which she is General Editor with Sabine Feisst. From 2009–12, Professor Neff served as the first woman Editor-in-Chief of Music Theory Spectrum.


Severine Neff