Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wallace C. McKenzie


The purpose of this study is to examine and discuss the traditional compositional elements in the pre-serial atonal music of Alban Berg. The dissertation is divided into eight chapters. Chapter One serves as an introduction, Chapters Two through Seven form the main body, and Chapter Eight contains a summary and conclusions. In the introductory chapter, the essential techniques for composing atonal music are described, as well as solutions to the problems of creating unity and cohesiveness without the organizational potential provided by tonality. Berg's own special melodic techniques, imitative constructions, ostinatos, and utilizations of traditional forms are also described in this chapter. The main body of the dissertation is divided into seven chapters, one for each composition. Chapter Two deals with Berg's first completely atonal work, the String Quartet, Op. 3, which contains most of the special compositional techniques he uses throughout all of his atonal works. Chapter Three contains the discussion of Berg's first work for full orchestra, the Altenberg Lieder, Op. 4. Berg's only aphoristic work, the Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 5, is discussed in Chapter Four. Berg's first large-scale orchestral work, theThree Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6, is presented in Chapter Five. The third piece in this composition represents both the highest degree of musical complexity and the most extensive combinations of formal structure in Berg's atonal music. Because Wozzeck has been thoroughly analysed by many scholars, only a summary of the opera is presented in this study. This summary is placed at the end of the main body instead of in its proper chronological order. Chapter Six deals with the Chamber Concerto which, with its numerous passages in retrograde, inversion, and retrograde-inversion, represents the final step towards twelve-tone serial technique. Berg demonstrates his extraordinary compositional skills in this work by freely combining the first two movements to form the third movement.