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Durham e-Theses
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Desire and the drives: a new analytical approach to the harmonic language of Alexander Skryabin

Smith, Kenneth (2008) Desire and the drives: a new analytical approach to the harmonic language of Alexander Skryabin. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The aims of this project are two-fold. Firstly, it aims to correlate the erotically charged philosophy of Alexander Skryabin with the progressive harmonic structures of his music. Secondly it proposes a new harmonic theory which is designed to offer a deeper understanding of the ways in which music can represent and embody the mechanisms of the human 'drive'. This involves unravelling the numerous strands of thought - both esoteric and mainstream ― that constructed Skryabin's idiosyncratic and highly eccentric world-view. To understand fully tills complex body of ideas it appeals to 20(^th) century psychoanalysis in the Freudian tradition. This vital link connects Skryabin's interest in psychology and philosophy to his compositional procedures whilst showing that certain of Freud's ideas were crystallised in writings on desire from the 1960ร which also brought the various contradictions betrayed in Skryabin's writings into the spotlight. In some cases, Skryabin's music itself offers safe paths out of his philosophical quagmire, where the formal propositions of his writings fail. Whilst the harmonic theory proposed is deeply rooted in the philosophy that Skryabin himself studied, it is equally grown from a correspondence between current trends of analytical thought in music and analytical trends that have been predominant in Russia. Whilst the first chapter outlays the philosophical basis of my theory, the following three chapters explore the intricacies of my analytical system in purely musical terms to present a line of inquiry termed drive analysis. The remaining three chapters pick up the philosophical thread and slowly draw my various strands together in a concluding analysis of Skryabin's Poem of Ecstasy.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2008
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:34

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