#3
There is so much to talk about. Even the first few bars is enough for a page or two. Gimme a sec.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#4
Use condensed score for easier analysis.

The opening measures of the Tristan prelude is groundbreaking in its architecture and harmonic language. Wagner's manipulation of dominant 7th chords is unlike anything previously heard in common practice tonal harmony. This work marks one of the first bridges between functional harmony and atonal music and can be analyzed in both traditional and serial ways.

From a traditional standpoint, Wagner creates a very complex and chromatic approach to the use of augmented 6th chords for dominant motion.

Background on the augmented 6th chords:
Augmented 6th chords are essentially dominant functioning chords with the outside intervals being an augmented 6th (eg Db - B). They are spelled this way to voice lead half step up and down to both target the tonicizing note: the Db moves half down to C, B moves half up to C.

There are 3 main types of aug 6th:

A triadic aug 6th chord (known as Italian aug6) made up of 3 chord tones, containing the 2 essential outside diads and a major 3rd above the root (eg, Db, F, B). The F and B contains the tritone that gives the aug 6th its dominant function. It resolves to a tonicized note all by chromatic approaches: Db to C, F to E, and B to C, resulting in a C major chord. In jazz terms, this is known as a substitute dominant, eg Db7 to C instead of G7 to C.

There are also 2 4-part versions of the aug 6th chord, which are used most often as a dominant to THE dominant (V7 or any secondary dominants): German and French. The German aug 6 adds a 5th to the It. aug6: Ab C Eb F# -> G B F(7th) G. The Eb moves a whole step up to avoid parallel 5th with the root.
The French adds an aug 4th to the It. aug6: Ab C D F# -> G B D G. The D acts as a common tone between the two harmonies.

Now, in the opening of Tristan, m.3, the essential chord an F french augmented 6th chord (F, B, D#, A). However, the single most provocative sound we hear comes right before this, an F half diminished 7th chord: F Cb(B) Eb(D#), Ab(G#). This is the central object, as we will see later. The F-7b5 becomes an F fr6 by moving the 3rd chromatically from G# to A. Moving to A creates a tritone between D# and A, and this becomes the focus of resolution. In the next measure, the F fr6 moves expectedly to what is essentially an E dominant. However, he lingers on the A# for a very tense aug 4th before resolving this single pitch to B, the 5th of E. So the common theme here is the tritone; it is present in all 4 chords between m.3 and 4, featured between different voices.

So the essential movement here is F aug6 to E7. That is quite traditional. However, what follows is not traditional. In functional harmony, the E7 would resolve to an A major, or at least to F# minor if we are staying in key. However, Wagner abandons any obligations to resolve and sequentially recreate the first 4 bars without any tonal relationship. The 3 opening sequences are functionally traditional by themselves, but seemingly has no relationship as a whole. It is a very important bridge between tonality and atonality.

We can also examine the essential chords from a serial perspective:

If we assign an absolute number for each pitch in the chromatic scale starting with C = 0, we yield a serial reference: C 0, C#/Db 1, D 2, D#/Eb 3, E/Fb 4, E#/F/Gb 5, etc. until we get 0 to 11(which is B).

Focusing on the very first chord and the last chord of m.3 and 4, we have the F-7b5 and E7, which we can consider the two ends of a symmetry. Translating letters to numbers, the two objects are:
5 11 3 8 and 4 8 2 11 if we're reading from lowest note to highest.

If we reorient these 2 sets to the least wide outside intervals and most packed to the left, we get:
3 5 8 11 and 2 4 8 11

To put things in even clearer perspective, let's center these 2 sets on 0 (by subtracting 3 and 2 respectively):
0 2 5 8 and 0 2 6 9
By doing these 2 steps, we yield the normal form, which allows for the simplest view of what pitches are being presented.

How do these two relate? Well, in symmetry, what is on one side tends to be the opposite on the other side. In serialism, the "other side" can be calculated by inverting the pitches (12 - n).
If we invert [0 2 6 9], we get [0 10 6 3]. To put this inversion in normal form, we use the same procedures as earlier:
[0 10 6 3] -> most compact form [10 0 3 6] -> bring to 0 -> [0 2 5 8]

So what is apparently two different set classes are actually the same set, reflected against each other; [0 2 5 8] (the F-7b) and [0 2 6 9] (the E7) are derived from the same set class. Considering the tritone motif, and these outside chords, there is a remarkable level of symmetry present in these 2 central measures.

The sequence in the first 3 systems are not arbitrary either. Look at the first note of each sequence:
m.1: A (9)
m.5: B (11)
m.9: D (2)
m.13: F (5)

[9 11 2 5] put into normal form is, surprise surprise, [0 2 5 8], the all important diminished 7th chord.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#5
Quote by Sóknardalr
http://formandanalysis.blogspot.com/2007/11/wagner-tristan-isolde-analysis.html

Try this. BTW it took me less than a minute to find on Google.

That analysis is garbage.

"I'm not sure if this is in A minor/major" (after asserting it is in A minor)

Maybe that's because it's not really in any key?

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#6
Quote by Xiaoxi
That analysis is garbage.

"I'm not sure if this is in A minor/major" (after asserting it is in A minor)

Maybe that's because it's not really in any key?


Hey, don't shoot the messenger. I didn't comb through it myself before posting, I was only saying that Google is a valuable tool that should be used. You already posted a much better analysis though so it doesn't matter.
#7
Quote by Xiaoxi
There is so much to talk about. Even the first few bars is enough for a page or two. Gimme a sec.


People have written whole chapters and theses on the first few bars

There's a good one of the first section of the prelude in "The Unanswered Question" by Leonard Bernstein, and Nicholas Cook does an analysis of the whole prelude in the chapter on Schenkerian Analysis in his "Guide to Musical Analysis". Pretty sure Gilbert and Forte must touch on it in "Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis", as well. But I haven't got that book on me, at the moment, so I can't double check on that one.
#8
Ahhhhh ... the Tristan Chord!

The funny thing is that Wagner took time off from Der Ring des Nibelungen to write a lyrical opera to make a little cash while on the run from the authorities in Germany.

He was also schtupping two women and ended up marrying the daughter of the conductor of the premier.

It was the beginning of something -- perhaps Wagner's continued assertion that he was creating gesamtkunstwerk and not just tickling the ears of his patrons. Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School find the beginning of 12 tone music in Wagner ... I dunno, that's a lot deeper than I can wrap my head around.

I think all that sex and running from the law was a major influence.
#9
Quote by Zen Skin

I think all that sex and running from the law was a major influence.


the rockstars of the day!
#10
Quote by Sóknardalr
Hey, don't shoot the messenger. I didn't comb through it myself before posting, I was only saying that Google is a valuable tool that should be used. You already posted a much better analysis though so it doesn't matter.

Oh I wasn't bagging on you. But that guy did such a half assed job...

...modes and scales are still useless.


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