- 'Wie hell grüßt uns heute der Herr!': hexatonic poles and mystical transformation in the Act I Grail scene of Wagner's Parsifal
- Dutch Journal of Music Theory
- Volume | Issue number
- 18 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
This article scrutinizes the dramatic and symbolical function of hexatonic pole progressions within the Act 1 Grail scene of Wagner’s Parsifal. The notion of a hexatonic pole was introduced by Richard Cohn, and the progression it denotes forms a clear example of the transgressive, transformational harmony so central to much Neo-Riemannian analysis. In this article, a Neo-Riemannian approach to musical syntax is combined with a more traditional outlook on harmony. This outlook takes the circle of fifths as its fundament, and interprets tonal developments within this system from the viewpoint of Tonartencharakteristik and tonal symbolism of light and dark. The analysis shows how the musical and scenic design of the Grail ceremony articulates a distinction between an earthly and supernatural realm, that are reconciled after the revelation of the Grail. This reconciliation is effectuated through harmony, when initial tonal inhibitions are eventually transgressed and overcome by hexatonic pole progressions.
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