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“Warm Die Lufte” Essay, Research Paper

An Analysis of Berg?s ?Warm die Lufte? from op. 2

Berg?s ?Warm die Lufte? from op. 2 is a unique song. Within it , Berg weaves atonal and tonal writing tools to create a very interesting sound. The piano part suggests harmonic motion and recognizable tonalities while the vocal line features abstract relations to other musical excerpts throughout the piece. The question then arises , ? How does everything work together?? Through musical analysis one will find that the piano part and the vocal line have little if nothing to do with each other tonally or atonally , therefore it is best to observe each part separately.

The vocal line is by far more abstract then the piano part. It appears to be very sporadic yet carefully crafted. There are several things Berg did to create a sense of unity and movement throughout the vocal line. The first aspect that Berg paid special attention to was his choice one particular interval. The interval of importance is the half-step or 1. In the vocal line there are 26 1?s (including 11?s). There are 107 intervals in the vocal line. This means that roughly 25% of all the intervals are 1?s. What we hear because of this , is a very tightly knit vocal line. Berg?s use of 1?s lends itself to his preference of a gradually changing movement through out a phrase. This is very different from Shoenberg?s disjointed 18?th leaps and things of that sort. Overall it creates an interlocking effect. An example of his use of 1?s occurs between mm. 9 through 14 (ex.1). The vocal line snakes around moving from chromatic neighbor notes for five long measures gradually building to the climax of the entire song ( m.16) While not a extreme interval , the 1 is essentially the main building block of the vocal line. Without it , the vocal line would be completely disjointed. The range of the vocal part also contributes to this argument. When the lowest note A (m19) and highest note G# (m.16) are put together , a 1 appears. It could be a coincidence , but the emphasis on the 1 leads me to think it was planned. There are many other intervals in the vocal line, but none have the importance that 1 has.

The only other interval influences the sound of the vocal line is the 6. The tritone is established as an important interval from the very beginning of the piece. In the opening phrase there is three tritones. Ex.2 shows the tritones. In almost every other phrase has at least one tritone. The tritone and 1 work together to define the sound of the vocal line. (see Ex 2 for more example of tritones) The tritone creates the tension of the vocal line and the chromatic half-step helps to create a feeling of slowing building anger.

Another area of careful consideration is Berg?s use of unordered pitch-class relationships. On the outside , many of the vocal phrases look different in length and actual pitches. When you send certain phrases through normal form and into prime form , the intervals show the true relationships. The first relationship occurs between ex.3 and ex.4. When reduced to their prime form , these two example yield similar interval content. Ex.3?s interval content is *13112* and ex.4?s interval content is *21131*. Ex.3 and ex.4 are inversions of each other , therefore they are related. Any realtion helps add unity to this piece.

One more example of relationships by unordered pitch class occurs between ex.5 and ex.6. Once again we can observe how prime form reveals an identical interval content. Ex.5 and 6 both have the interval content *111112111*. Although ex.1-4 appear to be different , analysis proved that they do have an internal relationship which was planned by Berg. I like to think of it as musical franchising. It?s the same food and ingredients , but in a different building and location.

Besides the above there are also some smaller and less significant vocal features. In some sections , the vocal line uses little bits of pitch-class collections , more specifically the octatonic and chromatic scales . A portion of the octatonic scale appears in mm.13-14. The notes between the C#?s are members of the Octatonic 1,2 scale (ex.7). The only note that is missing is 5. The chromatic scale is also almost fully represented in ex.5 and 6. In ex.5 the only notes that are missing are 6 and 10. In ex.6 1 and 6 are missing. Overall the chromatic sound is still very easy to hear.

Another interesting thing occurs in the opening vocal phrase. Through the use of intervalic analysis , an interesting pattern became visible. The intervals that became visible created trichords. If we exclude the 4 in the second measure , the phrase moves from [026] to [015] to[013] and finally a [012] (ex.8). Overall this shows a shrinking motion as the phrase moves forward. The shrinking of intervals gives us a feeling of great tension. It?s almost like you are getting squeezed by the music.

This leads to the topic of text painting. The text by Alfred Mombert is very dark and tense. Mombert gives the false impression of comfort and happiness by talking about sunshine and meadows , yet there severe unrest and tension in the poem. Berg conveys the feeling of the poem with incredible accuracy. Besides the example above of being squeezed there are many more instances of text painting. The most powerful example of text painting occurs in measure 16. The girl?s anger at her male friend is treated with a triple forte and the highest note of the piece (G#). Berg captures her rage and eventual boiling over. Berg then goes on to emphasize the word ?die? in measure 19. The word ?die? occurs on the lowest note (A,-3). The effect is amazing. The girl cries out in anger and then says ?die!?. The music conveys the fluctuation of emotions , through the extreme change in register.

The piano part also shares the job of text painting. The piano does more work in creating a setting for the voice to dwell in. It functions like special effects in a way. One of the neatest example of text painting in the piano part occurs in measure 6. The piano floats around in the high register , then quickly tumbles down almost three octaves. This sounds like a bird flying high and then swooping to the ground. This relates to the line that says ? listen -the nightingale is singing , I will sing?. We have the bird up high and then we swoop down to ground level were a person would sing.(ex9) Another example of text painting coincides with ? he makes me wait….? After this line is sung the piano plays six low pedal B flats in a row. This represents waiting. It sounds like a grandfather clock chiming on the hour. The b flats also create a great setting for the word ?die?. It is very ominous and evil sounding.(ex10)

Text painting is the only area where the piano and voice share a relationship. As I mentioned in the first paragraph , the voice functions in a more atonal way. On the other hand , the piano part has more tonal links that hold it together. Intervals play a very important part in the piano music. The interval of a 6 occurs very often and in the same fashion of an up and down motion. The examples of this occur in measures 6-8 , 10-11 , and 17. In measures 6-8 the piano repeats a 6 between E flat and A six times. One measure later the up and down 6 occurs again except this time in a 7 diad made up of F# and C# and a 7 diad of C and G. An interesting aspect of these diads is that the notes of the previous up and down 6 are the minor thirds of each diad.( A creates a f# minor triad and the e flat makes a c minor triad. The final example of the up and down 6 occurs in measure 17. This time the motion is between a 4 interval of C and E and G flat to B flat. (ex11)

This leads to the next important interval , the 3rd. In many instances he uses thirds to change the color of unordered pitch sets. One example of this is in measures 9 and 10.(ex12) The two chords that go back and fourth would be a G major triad and an A minor triad both in first inversion When the minor third is stacked on top of the triads the ear is totally thrown of and the triad are disguised. This also happens in measures 22 and 23. (ex13) If Berg had left out the c/eflat third , an E minor triad would be heard. In the next measure an A minor triad would sound.

One of the most important intervals in the piano part is the fifth. The first sonority we hear in the piece is a fifth of C and G. This fifth is repeated for three measures. (ex14) The emphasis creates a association with C as a center note. Everything moves above the low C. This is further emphasized in measure 5 and 6 where another fifth built on C is held out for almost two measures. It comes back again in measures 10 and 11 , but something interesting happens before the fifth sounds. In measure 9 and 10 there is a mini harmonic progression to C.(ex15) First we hear a G major triad and A minor triad as mentioned above. These two sonorities are heavily rooted around C, G being V and A being the relative minor VI. It is not Bach harmonic progression but it has tonal implications.

One of the interesting was Berg uses the fifth occurs in measures 22 and 23.(ex16) Within these measures Berg creates two instances of V to I motion. In measure 22 the top 3 notes in the right hand form a A flat major triad in first inversion. In the next measure on the eight note of beat two, a D flat major triad in first inversion sounds in the top three voices of the right hand. The A flat major triad is the V of D flat major. There is also another similar relationship like this one. In the same place as the A flat major triad sounds , an e minor triad also occurs. This also is the V of the a minor triad in the next measure in the left hand .It is hard to hear these relations at a very slow rubato tempo , but in recordings that move a little quicker it is more audible.

Berg also used unordered pitch sets to create strong harmonies in the song. One important unordered pitch set that dominates the end of the piece from measure 22 to the end is {B , F# , Eflat , A , D} or {-25 , -18 , -9 , -3 , 2}. (ex16) This chord sounds six times in the last four measures. This repetition creates a center around B , just like the focus of the first section was around C. Overall this can be seen as an overall movement from C to B. Once again the half -step reappears.

The piano also has some important motives. One interesting motive occurs in the right hand of the piano part from measures 13 to 15.(ex17) The motive begins on a C and goes up to an F# to from a tritone. This repeats four times except each time the extra note on top goes up by a half step. Overall it forms the tritone progression of [016] to [026] to [036] and finally [026]. This motive with the expanding top adds to the build up to the climax of the piece. It also emphasizes the importance of the tritone. The tritone sounds each time.

This motive leads into another interesting section of the piano part. In measure 15 there is an interesting black and white key run.(ex18) The black keys ascend in a pentatonic scale while the white keys descend down in a G mixolydian scale. The most interesting aspect of the runs is what notes they star and end on. The black key run begins on an A# and ascends two octaves to A# again. The white key run descends two octaves from a B to a B. Once again a half-step is formed. It is also important to note that every single pitch in the chromatic scale is represented in the second half of beat one. These runs with all the chromatic notes suggest the breaking point for the girl in the poem. There are to many notes to handle , just like her friend not showing up was to much to handle.

When discussing high and low points of emotion in the song , form must be observed. Overall the piece is divided into three sections. These sections are separated by a fast moving descending piano interlude. The first section lasts from measure 1 to7. The second is from measure 7-16 and the final section is from measure 17 to the end. Each of these sections progress very naturally and smoothly from one to another. The second intensely builds up to the third. Berg?s use of effective dynamics makes the section have their own flavor and adds to the intensity of the build up to the third section. Up until the build up , we are only allowed a piano at the most. The quiet dynamics and intense sonorities really create very intense feeling. When the overall form is observed the emotional map of the piece becomes very obvious. We can track the progression of emotions from contentment to worrying to anger , and finally calm yet morose.

There is one more aspect of this song that must be address .In the the third section a very interesting tonal pattern occurs.(ex19) In measures 20 and 21 there is some sort of sequence happening with descending fifth bass line. The most interesting thing about this sequence is that he copied it directly from Debussy?s Six epigraphs antiques, an andantino for piano duet titled Pour la danseuse aux crotales. This sequence in note for note the same exact thing. The only difference is rhythmic. Why would he do this? I interpret this as a definite effort to retain tonal characteristics. I believe he simply really liked the progression and wanted to use it himself. I also think it is significant that he was interested in French music. When i first heard the piece I thought the music had many French influences regarding harmonies that occurred throughout the piece. Overall I like the mixture of Schoenberg’s and Debussy?s influence. It is a completely unique sound.

All of the above analysis have led to this conclusion : Berg?s ?Warm die Lufte? from op. 2 has captured the essence of life through creative use of atonal and tonal techniques. The blend of the old and new present a perfect balance between order and chaos in daily life. Through the use of atonal and tonal analysis intricate details and patterns appear from the well within the woodwork. One is able to see that there were strict principles of atonal theory and a freer use of tonal techniques that Berg was operating by. The freedom that Berg wrote with just gushes out through the raw emotion of this song. His mentor and teacher Schoenberg sounds dry and alien to me. Schubert on the other hand sounds unrealistic and sappy. Berg?s balance of atonal and tonal techniques lets the listener grasp the music , but not to tight. This lends itself to a very intense reality experience through his music.