Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Alexander Scriabin’s late music has long fascinated music theorists by its unprecedented exploration of harmony. Accordingly, many analysts have attempted to capture Scriabin’s self-professed theoretical system, in which he states, “there is not one note unaccounted for.” However, no theorist has currently developed a comprehensive system of analysis for this music. While scholars have succeeded in relating members of the same set class through maximally invariant transposition, there are persistent issues in relating members of different set classes. The variety of conflicting methods of analysis attempting to relate members of different set classes suggests the following conclusion: there is no purely music-analytical theory that can explain Scriabin’s post-tonal compositional language. However, new analytical approaches to Scriabin’s late music have been achieved by consulting his philosophical influences. The benefits of this diachronic approach to Scriabin’s late music are shown in the works of Richard Taruskin and Anna Gawboy, who analyze large passages of Scriabin’s music through maximally invariant transposition. This study extends this diachronic approach to develop a comprehensive system of analysis for relating different set classes in Scriabin’s late music. This study compares Scriabin’s most significant philosophical influences of Vladimir Solovyov, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Vyacheslav Ivanov, and Helena Blavatsky to uncover his underlying principle of unifying desire. This desire to create unity is then related Scriabin’s use of maximally invariant transposition, suggesting that each collection has a will to create unity based on its maximally invariant transpositions. This theory of transpositional will is combined with Straus’s fuzzy transposition to create a comprehensive and hermeneutical system of analysis of Scriabin’s late music. My study finds the intervals of fuzzy transposition are related to the maximally invariant transpositions of the underlying collections, which represents their transpositional wills. Since different set classes can have different maximally invariant transpositions, the interval of transposition may exclusively satisfy the transposition will of one collection, while rejecting the transpositional will of the other collection. In turn, one can use this theory to completely analyze Scriabin’s late works through a series of unifying or competing transpositional wills, based on the similar and different maximally invariant transpositions of the collections in the pcset structure.



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Committee Chair

Peck, Robert



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Music Commons