The Meaning of Intervals: Phenomenology-Based Harmonic Analysis

Lance Russell, Dallas College

This paper explores a method of harmonic analysis that is rooted in phenomenology. Phenomenology is a discipline of philosophy which investigates the logical structures involved in experience or consciousness. The phenomenology of harmonic structures, this author argues, is determined by the perception of intervallic relationships between the constituent tones of a chord (i.e., Root, Third, and Fifth in a triad) and how those "interval-meanings" change over time. The manner of change then establishes patterns which create musical expectations - expectations that can then be realized or denied over the course of a musical phrase. The methodology introduced in this paper uses "Neo-Hauptmannian" transformational operations to isolate processes in the time-experience of harmonic progressions, offering a precise and internally-consistent model for the establishment, realization, and subversion of harmonic expectations.