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    Connections Newsletter
    Issue 3                                                                                                                                         Spring Semester 2012


    A Note from the Collaborative Director

    Undergraduate Research: Adjusting to Life at a Liberal Arts College

    2012-2013 McNair Scholars

    Fall-Summer Collaborative Grants

    Convention Spotlight



    • Kaela Gedda
    • Jens Paasen
    • Gretchen Panzer
    • Hannah Schmitt
    • Luanne Spence
    • Sarah Titus
    Collaborative Research Stories
    • "Functional Double Employment of the Submediant" by Nikki Schommer & Dr. Blake Henson


    Important Dates

    May 4, 2012 Student Academic Travel Grant and Attendee Grant applications due

    Collaborative Research Stories

    "Functional Double Employment of the Submediant"

    Nikki Schommer '14 of Freedom, WI, Vocal Performance & Spanish Majors 

    Faculty Collaborator: Dr. Blake Henson, Assistant Professor of Music & Atonal Applications of Schenkerian Music Theory Research Specialist

    I am currently working on a research collaboration concerning functional double-employment, specifically in regard to the submediant triad.  In music, unlike chords, harmony has a specific function, that is, a purpose within the context of the music.  Function has been defined (and redefined) many times and the purpose of this project is to further that definition.  There are many musical examples in which one harmonic sonority can appear as two chords simultaneously (reading progressively and retrospectively).  This is called double employment.  On the other hand, I have found that there are also instances in which one specific chord can function with two separate purposes simultaneously.  This concept is accepted in the world of music theory, but has previously remained undefined.  I have called this concept functional double employment.  In this research project, I have confined my discussion to the Submediant—the triad built on scale degree six— and its capacity to demonstrate functional double employment. 



    I became interested in this subject while I was attending Dr. Henson’s music theory course, Comprehensive Musicianship 3.  We had been working on an in-class exercise that dealt with harmonic function.  After we purposefully skipped over assigning a function label to the Submediant triad, I became bothered because it seemed that the sonority could function in more than one manner.  Dr. Henson had already taught me about double employment, so after class I asked him if double employment of function might be possible and since I was so bothered by our lack of definition in regard to the use of the submediant triad, I asked if such functional double employment might help explain the ambiguities of the Submediant.   It was that class period that sparked the interest for our research collaboration.


    Working on this project with Dr. Henson has changed my life.  By working together in this manner, I have become more analytical with my thoughts in general, but especially in the classroom.  I think that the value of undergraduate research isn’t always apparent in its many-faceted forms.  This project has helped me academically in myriad ways, but through it, I have also gained a close friend and adviser, which I did not expect.  By doing this research collaboration, my life has been significantly altered for the better.


    This project will continue to help me during my academic career, and hopefully, it will help others as well.  This has been an amazing experience which will prepare me for graduate school in ways that I never expected.  When our research is concluded we will begin examining the possibility of finding a theory journal that will consider our project for publication.  Hopefully, this project will benefit others in the world of music theory by providing a further and more detailed explanation to a previously undiscussed aspect of harmonic function. 


    Faculty Narrative

    Nikki came to my office hours after a music theory class last fall to ask about a subject that she noted was conspicuously absent from my lecture.  She mentioned that at the beginning of the semester I had haphazardly referred to the submediant harmony as having the potential for either Tonic or Predominant function, but I never clarified how it could be either or both.  As I began to answer her question, I realized that such a distinction is explained only tacitly in the course of theoretic dicourse, and that there is considerable need to make this paradigm explicit.  Nikki immediately offered that the music theorist Jean-Philipe Rameau refers to the concept double-emploi (double employment), a paradigm that deals with chord direction rather than harmonic function (the concept “function” not being established until one hundred years later), and the concept of double employment might apply to our submediant paradox.  Our research has thus produced a project in two stages: 1) Defining the function of the submediant triad, expanding Ramellian double employment to incorporate function, and creating an abstract musical paradigm that exemplifies a potential solution; and 2) Finding real-world musical examples of submediant double employment.  




    St. Norbert Collaborative

    Phone: (920) 403-3147
    Fax: (920) 403-4086

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