Prolongation in the choral music of Benjamin Britten

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Much of the debate over post-tonal prolongation has focused on non-triadic music, with less written about the triadic post-tonal repertory. Britten's music presents special challenges for prolongational analysis: it often features a triadic surface organized around one central pitch, but its nonfunctional harmonic motion and free alterations of diatonic and non-diatonic scalar material create tonal ambiguity. In this article I will examine three pieces by Britten which employ surface-level triads to prolong middleground symmetrical interval cycles. These cycles, in turn, prolong pitches and structures, which help establish centricity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalMusic Theory Spectrum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • A.M.D.G.
  • Britten
  • Choral music
  • Hymn to St. Cecilia
  • Interval cycles
  • Pattern completion
  • Post-tonal
  • Prolongation


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