Edward Green

About the Participants

Edward Green

About

Edward Green teaches at Manhattan School of Music and the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.  A composer and musicologist of diverse interests, he was recently named a Fulbright Senior Specialist (CIES) in American Music. He is the editor of two forthcoming books on Ellington (The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington and Ellington Studies, the latter co-editing with John Howland); his book China and the West: the Birth of a New Music was recently printed (in translation) by Shanghai University Press. His prolific publications include essays in Choral Music, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Jazz Perspectives, British Journal of Aesthetics, Bach Notes, Onagakugaku (the Journal of the Musicological Society of Japan), Ars Lyrica,  and The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism; editing the Journal of Musicological Research’s double issue “Haydn: Beyond the Anniversary”; and as editor and contributor for a special issue of Contemporary Review. His essay “The Impact of Rousseau on the Music Histories of Burney and Hawkins” will appear in RILM’s new volume, Music’s Intellectual History: Founders, Followers, and Fads.

Conference Paper: “Chromatic Completion—A Little Appreciated Technical Link Connecting the Operas of Gluck, Haydn, and Mozart”

  • Abstract:
    • H.C. Robbins Landon, in various places, observed the impact of Gluck’s operas upon Haydn and Mozart. Their own mature theatrical work shows how they learned from his emphasis upon dramatic (and hence musical) continuity—though as Landon was quick to note, given their unique creative personalities, the results were hardly mere echoes of Gluck’s style.
      Nevertheless, his impact was hugely significant, and involved not so much the surface features of the music, but something structurally deeper: a technical feature which Gluck innovated and for which he has hardly received the historical credit he deserves. What Landon (and others) apparently did not realize is the degree to which Gluck made use of chromatic completion—and specifically the technique that I have called “linkage.” Again and again, seemingly separate numbers in an opera are linked in this manner: the earlier piece (or section of a piece) uses 11 of the 12 possible chromatic tones, with the missing tone, the tone which would complete the chromatic aggregate, found in the very first measure, and often as the very first note, of the piece (or section) which follows. 
      By this means, in a manner at once technically and psychologically satisfying, continuity is secured between otherwise seemingly disparate units of the musical drama: dramatic flow is obtained with no loss of the sudden shifts of key, tempo, instrumentation, which Gluck employed to highlight the conflicts which are the key to true stage drama.
      In fact, it can be argued that chromatic completion is the technical foundation which gives to these sudden, ever-so-characteristic shifts in Gluck the solidity, the logic, the stability which anchors the drama and prevents it from devolving into a mere series of discrete theatrical shocks.  (Something which happens in the works of many of Gluck’s lesser followers). As the philosopher Eli Siegel asked in a 1955 essay appearing in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism:  “Is there to be found in every work of art a certain progression, a certain indissoluble presence of relation, a design which makes for continuity?—and is there to be found, also, the discreteness, the individuality, the brokenness of things: the principles of discontinuity?”  Gluck, in his music, quite eloquently answers “Yes” to this question.
      Examples of chromatic completion will be given from four of Gluck’s operas, Orfeo ed Euridice, Alceste, Armide and Echo et Narcisse, ranging from 1762 to 1779—and it will be shown that foreshadowings of this remarkable technical procedure are present in the ballet Don Juan of 1761, and the 1759 operá comique Le diable à quatre.   At least two, and perhaps as many as three, swift illustrations will be given, each, showing the presence of this technique in thework of Haydn and Mozart, beginning in the late 1770s.  Earlier, they did not employ chromatic completion, and the technique of linkage; after this date, the technique becomes—as I showed in my NYU doctoral thesis (Chromatic Completion in the Late Vocal Music of Haydn and Mozart)—the rule with them.