Key Structure and Tonal Allegory in the Passions of J. S. Bach: An Introduction

Chafe, Eric

"Allegory" is the term used by Bukofzer to describe a relationship of coherence between a musical element and something extra-musical. For example, the triad can be used to represent the trinity because it embodies the concept "three in one"-three notes, one chord. Tonal allegory, then, is the use of any tonal element-key, modulation, sharp sign, enharmonic change, cross relation or even the entire key structure of a lengthy work-to express a coherent relationship with something extra-musical. Analysis of Bach's "Passions" has historically been done a disservice, by denying his work as a tonal allegory because of its deviance from the traditional format other piece's follow that are a form of tonal allegory. In this paper I will discuss the shortcomings of such thought.



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Columbia University
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April 7, 2015