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The Double Trajectory: Ambiguity in Brahms and Henry James

Author(s): Roland Jordan and Emma Kafalenos


Source: 19th-Century Music, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 129-144
Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/746651
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The Double Trajectory:
Ambiguity in Brahms and Henry James
ROLAND JORDAN AND EMMA KAFALENOS

Even initially and prior to analysis, certain Wingrave" suggest such a relationship. The
works elicit a recognition of the significant story begins:
characteristics they share. The ability to
confirm a typology by perceiving similarities in "Upon my honour you must be off your head!"cried
a group of works from about the same time is Spencer Coyle as the young man, with a white face,
the basis of historical periodization, and one stood there panting a little and repeating"ReallyI've
method of testing its validity. A parallelcorrela- quite decided," and "I assure you I've thought it all
out" (p. 269).1
tion in the way we experience works of the
same period from different art forms challenges This conversation brings us into the story in the
us to expand the scope of our approach.Com- midst of what is clearly an ongoing scene, an ar-
parative analysis can increase our understand- gument between two men: Spencer Coyle and
ing of the works themselves, clarify the useful- Owen Wingrave. As we read on, we gain little
ness of the methodologies of each field, and lead further information. We cannot begin to ask
to increasingly precise and accurate descrip- ourselves how the story will develop, much less
tions of historical typologies.
end; we can only attempt to discover the subject
The opening moments of Brahms's Inter- of the disagreement.
mezzo, op. 119, no. 1, and HenryJames's"Owen

'Henry James, The Novels and Tales of Henry James, vol. 17


in 26 (1909; New York, 1907-17), pp. 269-319. Revised by
19th-CenturyMusic XIII/2(Fall 1989). ? by the Regents of James for the New York edition, "Owen Wingrave" first ap-
the University of CaliforniaPress. peared in the Atlantic Monthly, April 1892.
129
19TH Finally in the seventh paragraph we learn grandfather-the Wingravefamily ghost-had
CENTURY that Coyle is a "professional 'coach' [who] pre- died without a wound or any other indication of
pare[s]aspirants for the army" (p. 270); but for a struggle. The effect of the ending is one of sur-
those unfamiliar with the training of British prise, not the horror of inevitability, because
army officers, it is only near the end of the first however many continuations from the opening
of the story's four sections that the initial situa- scene the readermight have imagined, a super-
tion is explained clearly, in a passagethat draws natural ending will not have been one of them.
attention simultaneously to the words them- The closure is oddly unsatisfying; it raises as
selves. In a conversation with his other student, many questions as it offers answers.
Coyle reports the decision Owen Wingravehas We left the BrahmsIntermezzo at the end of
just announced: its first eight measures with the articulationof a
tonal problem. As the piece continues there is
so Mr.Coylehadto continue:"Hedeclinesto go up. still no solution. Brahmsreturns to his original
He chucksthe wholeshop!" material in m. 9, but continues to evade a defini-
ThefirstthingthatstruckYoungLechmerein the tive tonic by allowing the melody to dissolve as
casewasthefreshness,as ofa forgottenvernacular,
it the music moves to a new tonal region, Fj mi-
had impartedto the governor'svocabulary."He
doesn'twantto go to Sandhurst?" nor (ex. 2). The highly contrasting middle sec-
(p.275).
tion of the ternaryform establishes D major(ex.
In 1892, the year "Owen Wingrave"was pub- 3), but without reachinga cadence it leads to the
only transition in the work and to the third
lished, Brahms composed the Intermezzo, op. statement of the music of the opening mea-
119, no. 1. The collection of pitches with which sures. A final occurrence of the primarytheme
the piece begins gives us little sense of tonal ref-
(beginningin m. 55) attempts to close the struc-
erence; we hear a falling arpeggiated ninth ture. But the harmonic alteration necessary is
chord (F#-D-B-G-E), or perhapstwo triads (F#-
so drastic that the tune again dissipates as the
D-B; B-G-E). The information offered in the music is pulled lower and lower until, in one
second and third measures leads us to assume
more reference to the first measures of the
that the key is D majoror possibly B minor; the
piece, the harmony "clears" to the only stable
assumption that it can be either is confirmedby B-minor chord in the work (ex. 4). The tonal
the interchangeability of mm. 4-5 and 6-7. Al-
problem raised in the first measure of the piece
though B minor seems to be confirmed by the is finally resolved in the last measure, but with-
introduction of A# in m. 4, in m. 6 a new harmo-
out the expected conventional cadence. Rather
nization of the same melodic pitches points to
than attaining its tonal goal by directedmotion,
D major.The tonal "problem"is not unambigu-
the music seems to dissolve into it.
ously solved. In m. 8 another F# dominant pre-
pares the second statement of the primaryma-
terial (ex. 1).2 II
In the story, the opening section poses a ques- The similarities between op. 119, no. 1, and
tion: either Owen will succeed in withdrawing James'sstory are obviously not on the semantic
from a military career,or Coyle and Wingrave's level. The Intermezzo is not a statement on
family will make him conform to the military courage and honor, nor does it tell about an at-
tradition of his ancestors. In the end, both tempt to coerce a young man to pursue a mili-
events occur; Owen does not join the army, al- tary career. The difficulty in making specific,
though he dies a military death. But to end this detailed comparisons between musical and lit-
tale that begins as an analysis of hard-nosedmil- erary works, in the terms in which Lawrence
itary attitudes, James has to turn to the super- Kramerdefines it, is a function of the "comple-
natural. Coyle discovers Owen dead, in the mentarity in the roles that the two artsassign to
room where decades earlierOwen's great-great- their connotative and combinatory aspects:
each art makes explicit the dimension that the
other leaves tacit." Kramercontinues:
2Toavoid duplicatingmusical examples, we have designed
nos. 1-4 and6 to serve more than one function; the horizon-
tal barsmarkingoccurrencesof trichordspertainto analyti- Music achieves its unique suggestiveness, the power
cal observationspresentedlater in this paper. ... to embody complex states of mind as they might
130
JORDAN/
KAFALENOS
Brahmsand
HenryJames
q f

Example 1: mm. 1-8.

i(y)
i(x)
9 12 i 16
rit.
I,
Ad I ---l- fl
- " j<pN b ~d I L lo-- ._N
am
10-
:10E
TT49

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~g
#
t
h
'):## ~ ~~-,9:qliU q~~ '1~~4L?"'~~ Cr

^-
I
(x) III (x) 4I1
i (y)
I
i(x)

Example 2: mm. 9-16.

arise pre-verbally in consciousness, by resting its choice of a poem, ratherthan a narrativetext, is


tacit connotations on an explicit combinatorystruc- perhaps determined by the fact that several
ture that is highly chargedwith complexity, expect-
combinatory structures, based on repetition,
ancy, and tension. In poetry, this expressive balance are recognized in poetry: patterns of nonseman-
is reversed:poetic meaning, as it unfolds to an inter-
preter, is a virtually limitless play of explicit conno- tic elements, such as rhythm and repeated so-
tative relationships [supported by] a combinatory nority, and patterns of semantic elements, such
structure... that manifests itself in the rhythm and as imagery, which mark the recurrenceof a con-
sonority of the verse. [The combinatorystructure]is cept (orsignified), if not of the word (orsignifier)
experiencedtacitly, peripherally,by most readers.3 that identifies it. It is as a result of parallelstruc-
What Kramer calls "this asymmetry in semiotic tures on the combinatory axis, it would seem,
structure" between music and poetry (p. 7) also that, in Kramer'swords, "in principle, a compo-
describes the relations between music and nar- sition and a poem may shape the flow of time in
rative. The specificity of semantic connotation commensurate ways."5
requires emphasis, in interdisciplinary ap-
proaches to music and literature, on the axis of "Music,Narrative,andBeethoven'sLaMalinconia."A ver-
sion of this paper is incorporatedin chap. 6 of Kramer's
combination. forthcoming book, Music as Cultural Practice, 1800-1900
In Music and Poetry, Kramer selects for each (Berkeleyand Los Angeles, 1990).
comparison a composition and a poem.4 His 5Kramer,p. 7. In RomanJakobson'sterms, "Thepoetic func-
tion projectsthe principleof equivalencefromthe axis of se-
lection into the axis of combination."Jakobsoncontinues:
"Only in poetry with its regularreiteration of equivalent
3Music and Poetry: The Nineteenth Century and After units is the time of the speech flow experienced,as it is-to
(Berkeleyand Los Angeles, 1984),p. 6. cite anothersemiotic pattern-with musical time" ("Clos-
4Kramerdevotes his attention to the interrelationsbetween ing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics," in Style in Lan-
narrativeand music in a paperpresentedat the 1989 meet- guage, ed. Thomas A. Sebeok [Cambridge,Mass., 19601,p.
ing of the American ComparativeLiteratureAssociation: 358).
131
19TH 17 i(x) i (x) 20
CENTURY r I I
MUSIC

s
< P ~----~ ~
cresc.-

9!1*
3 r-i ^- ; -- ^" ; jr
'

j - ; 4 5Y i; 3
. ^

Example 3: mm. 17-23.

55

Example 4: mm. 55-67.

The temporal movement of narrative, as Kra- sidering narrative structures, Greimas sees
mer demonstrates, is different from the tempo-
ral movement of lyric poetry (pp. 7, 10). The the need for a fundamental distinction between two
combinatory (or syntagmatic) patterns of the levels of representation and analysis: an apparent
two genres are not the same. In poetry, repeti- level of narration[the text we read],at which the di-
verse manifestations of narrativeare subject to the
tion is more available at several levels; nonse- specific requirements of the linguistic substances
mantic patterns are more readily perceived. through which it is expressed, and an immanent
Studies in narratology, however, have identified level, which is a kind of common structural trunk
syntagmatic or combinatory structures in nar- where narrativity is located and organized at the
rative for which parallels can be discerned in stage precedingits manifestation.6
music. The nonsemantic level on which op.
119, no. 1, and "Owen Wingrave" show similar- 6AlgirdasJulien Greimas, "Elementsof a NarrativeGram-
mar"(1969),in On Meaning:Selected Writingsin Semiotic
ities has perhaps been most clearly described by Theory,trans.PaulJ.PerronandFrankH. Collins (Minneap-
the French structuralist A. J. Greimas. In con- olis, 1987),p. 64.

132
The "common structuraltrunk" is the object of III JORDAN/
KAFALENOS
our investigation, although we are looking for Although both the Intermezzo and "Owen Brahmsand
equivalent structures not in a set of narrative Wingrave"achieve closure, neither ending is as Henry James
texts but in a text and a piece of music. convincing as we might expect in works from
Narratology is a branch of structuralism, a 1892. The questions about continuity that are
theoretical activity whose origins arein linguis- raised at the beginning of both indicate the pos-
tics, and which spreadfrom there to anthropol- sibility that each work has more than one tra-
ogy, literary theory, and other fields. One of the jectory. To explore this pattern initially on the
tenets of structuralism is that language, be- "apparent"or local level, let us analyze one of
cause it is a human construct, provides a model James's sentences, knowing that a sentence-
through which to explore other human con- even a sentence by HenryJames-is a trajectory
structs, including art works. To demonstrate in that is expected to conclude.
simple terms the relationship between struc-
tural linguistics and narratology,let us consider The second of the little boys in England,who was at
the sentence, which can be defined as an ongo- Paramorewith his grandfather,became the peculiar
ing trajectory-a combinatory or syntagmatic chargeof his aunt, the only unmarriedone, and dur-
structure-that is articulated into slots to be ing the interesting Sundaythat, by urgentinvitation,
SpencerCoyle, busy as he was, had, after consenting
filled by words from appropriatecategories. If to put Owen through,spent underthat roof, the cele-
we take as our model trajectory bratedcrammerreceived a vivid impressionof the in-
fluence exerted at least in intention by Miss Win-
Article-Noun-Transitive verb-Article- grave(p. 278).
Adjective-Noun,
What is most immediately apparent is the den-
we can move from model to sentence by select- sity of the structure, the stoppages, the very
ing words from the categories (orparadigms)the number of commas, the quantity of disparate
model trajectory(or syntagma)specifies: information. Reading the sentence again and
The cat scratches an antique chair. underlining, this time, in each of the units sepa-
The pianist plays a difficult sonata. rated by commas the words that initially seem
most important, we select perhaps: little boy /
The semantic message dependson the selection grandfather / aunt / her marital status / Sun-
of words from the specified paradigms,but also day / invitation / Spencer Coyle / busy as he
on the structure of the trajectory(orsyntagma). was/ had. This is the point, it would seem,
If we reorderthe syntagma where the linearity of the sentence nearly dis-
solves, seeming to turn back upon itself. When
Article-Adjective-Noun-Transitive verb- we read the word "had," if we remember "Sun-
Article-Noun, day"-the Sunday Coyle had at Paramore-we
assume that the dependent clause has con-
the statement changes: cluded, and that a new independent clause will
begin.
The difficult pianist plays a sonata. But the dependent clause does not stop at this
point. Let us look at it in its entirety:
What Greimas and other narratologistspro-
pose is that the structure of an ongoing syn-
tagma (or trajectory),along with paradigmsof duringthe interesting Sundaythat, by urgent invita-
elements to fill its articulatedunits, is a pattern tion, Spencer Coyle, busy as he was, had, after con-
senting to put Owen through, spent under that
that can be found at the "apparent"level of the roof.
sentence, and also on "immanent" (abstractor
"deep") levels of structure. We propose that The word "had," we discover, instead of turning
similar patterns underlie music, and that on an back to "Sunday," leads ahead to "spent": "had
immanent level the trajectoryof an individual spent." Even at the "apparent" level of syntax,
text and of a composition may show striking the direction of the trajectory is not immedi-
similarities. ately discernible. The significance of traditional
133
19TH narrative structures rests upon two assump- one,and... the celebratedcrammerreceiveda vivid
CENTURY tions on the partof the reader,that the narrative impressionof the influenceexertedat leastin inten-
construct is both teleological and causal. If we tion byMissWingrave.
perceive a series of events in the externalworld, The sentence contains two independent
we do not assume that it is necessarily a se-
quence shaped with an end in view, nor do we clauses, in a tense indicating a completed past
assume that because event A precedesevent B it action, held together only by the coordinating
necessarily causes event B. Inherent to the nar- conjunction "and." Each is a separate trajec-
rative pact, whether as readerswe are conscious tory. The first pertains to a distant past, the sec-
of it or not, is our assumption-once we label ond to a more recent past. The first denotes an
the text we are reading as narrative-that it is event, the second the perception of it, the per-
teleologically constructed to lead to a particular ception of its intent. The first, even in its com-
end, and that if event A precedesevent B we will plete form with all of its words, is much less
dense than the second.
probablydiscover that event A causes event B. If In this sentence as well as in James'swork as
either teleology or causality is brought into
a whole, his language grows increasingly dense
question, the reader'sstable position in the nar- as his focus turns from the event to the percep-
rative universe is undermined.When we cannot
tion of it, through the filter of the character
immediately discern the direction of the trajec- whose consciousness he is dramatizing. Nor
tory in the clause we are considering, teleology can the emphasis on perception occur, even at
on the local level is subverted.
the local level, without a double trajectory:a se-
Readingthe clause once more, let us consider
it from the perspective of order and causality. quence of events and a sequence of perceiving
The "Sunday"Coyle had spent, we know, is in them. Because of the nature of perception,
the past; the "invitation" presumablypreceded which can shift from the present to a reconsid-
ered past, there is no final end to which the
it; "Coyle, busy as he was" indicates a progres- reader can assume a sequence of perceptions
sive past of description that may continue
will teleologically lead. Nor can events that are
throughout the whole sequence; the "consent- told in the orderthey are perceivedbe expected
ing to put Owen through" is probablyprior to to retain the causal relationship implied by the
the invitation that precedes the Sunday. If we
reorderthe completed actions accordingto the order in which they occur. Even at the local
sequence in which they seem to have occurred, level, James'ssentence bringsinto question the
we begin with the "consenting to put Owen underpinnings of the narrativepact, undermin-
through," which results in the "invitation," ing teleology and causality.
which leads to the "Sunday"visit to Paramore.
The orderof the telling-the Sunday,the invi- IV
tation, the consenting-reverses the order of In the nineteenth century there still existed a
the action: the consenting, the invitation, the pact between composer and listener according
Sunday.The latter is a causal sequence: the con- to which, in spite of seeming disruptions at the
senting causes the invitation, the invitation "apparent"level, at the "immanent" level the
causes the Sundayvisit. When the events arere- work would be causal, teleological, and closed.
orderedin the telling, the causal chain is sub- Any tonal piece is a complex organization re-
verted; the visit does not cause the invitation. sulting from the interactions of horizontal and
The reorderedsequence of the telling, at the lo- vertical, local and large-scalerelationships. The
cal level, alreadybegins to undermine the narra- outcome is a process, a trajectory,the percep-
tive pact. tion of which allows us to compile potential ele-
Now let us go back to the other part of our ments of the completed structure even as the
sentence, this time looking at its skeletal form, music extends. The degree of complexity of a
the way it readswith both dependentclauses re- specific work seems to be the result of the den-
moved: sity of the relationships, or of the levels of rela-
tionships, we are led to constitute. The signifi-
The secondof the little boysin England... became cance of certain interactions is heightened by
the peculiarchargeof his aunt,the only unmarried the introduction of conflict between the power-
134
ful forwardthrust characteristic of tonal music JORDAN/
and resistance created by specific materials and KAFALENOS
Brahmsand
textures. Much of the dramaresides in the suc- Henry James
cessful completion of the tonal structure de-
spite various kinds and degrees of resistance. In
the Intermezzo the trajectoryof the musical dis-
course is constrained by its sheer mass of detail
and deflected by ambiguity and the irregulari-
ties in the continuity of its structure.7The pact Example 5: Series of descending thirds.
between composer and listener is seriously
weakened.
In listening to the opening measures of the metric structureis not supportedby melodic ca-
piece, we can entertain at least three readings. dences, and the repetition of m. 4 in the sixth
In each of the first three measures, the falling measure is in conflict with the four-barhar-
thirds can be heard as a single chord, an inter- monic periods. Cadencing in neither B minor
pretation that is supportedby the resolutions in nor D major, the melody is unable to reach a
mm. 2 and 3 of the melody. But we also respond conclusion; in m. 12 it dissolves into repeti-
to pairs of triads, particularlyin the second and tions of the motive from m. 4 which lead us into
third measures; this second reading is rein- F#minor. The same procedureoccurs at the end
forced by the cross-hand pattern in the transi- of the piece where, beginning in m. 47, after an
tion that begins in mm. 43-44. A third reading exact restatement of the first eight measures of
treats the first four measures as one unit, the ex- the melody, its dissolution is altered and ex-
pression of a single series of descending thirds tended. Even in its final occurrencethe melody
which is "turned"or stoppedby the A# and Ft of is not clearly in B minor.
m. 4 (ex. 5).8 A similar but extended series con- In a more traditional piece, tonal ambiguity
tains the pitches of the transition and the return in the melody can be clarifiedby the bass voice.
to the initial material (mm. 43-50). Having dis- In this piece, however, the bass itself is ambigu-
covered three readings, we begin to understand ous until mm. 15-16, where it defines not B or
the richness of the initial moments of the piece. D, but F# minor. Farfrom simplifying our read-
Like one of James's clauses, Brahms's opening ing of the trajectoryof the music, the relation-
refuses merely to move forward. ship between the outside voices adds a new
The melody that grows out of these opening level of density. For three measures the bass
measures is tonally ambiguous. Unaccompa- pitch seems to "force" melodic change in the
nied, it is apt to be heard in D. Implying no ten- top voice, but the continuation of the bass line
dency toward closure, it evolves for eight mea- imitates the soprano, at the seventh in mm. 4-
sures until its further extension is frozen by the 5, at the fifth in mm. 6-7. Additionally, since
repetition that begins in m. 9 (ex. 1). Nor is its the imitations are offset by only an eighth note,
rhythm as obvious as it initially seems; the the counterpoint between the two voices pro-
duces an unexpected rhythmic complexity. In
the move toward F# minor in mm. 12-16, the
imitative relationship between soprano and
7Althoughambiguity is an essential factor in the temporal
unfolding of a tonal structure,in many works, includingop. bass reemerges, first at the third and then at the
119, no. 1, the degreeand the sheer quantity of ambiguous fourth. This passage is the first in which the
relationshipsgo beyondthose associatedwith the tonal sys- bass articulates a clear tonality.
tem. Studies of Brahms's work in particularhave treated
ambiguity on several levels, including rhythm,phrase,har- The tonal ambiguity of the melody and the
mony, tonality, and form. See, for example, Jonathan bass line in the opening measures is reflected in
Dunsby, Structural Ambiguity in Brahms: Analytical Ap- the local harmonic structure. The first three
proaches to Four Works (Ann Arbor, 1981); and David Ep-
stein, Beyond Orpheus: Studies in Musical Structure (Cam- measures seem to be in D major, but in the
bridge,Mass., 1979),esp. chap. 8, "Ambiguityas Premise." fourth measure there is a V4of B minor. The ex-
8In an alternative approach to the thirds cycle, Dunsby
treats the thirds of mm. 1-4 as two cycles, the first falling pected resolution in m. 5 is weakened, however,
from F# to A, the second from F# to At (StructuralAmbi- by the delay of the pitch B until the second beat,
guity, pp. 94-95). and the simultaneous move to G in the bass.
135
19TH Also in m. 5, the significance of the A# is re- called i (x),prove to be inversions of the original
CENTURY duced by its position following an A~ and its ab- sets. The following diagramdemonstrates this
MUSIC
sorption into a cambiata-like appoggiatura trichord complex and designates certain state-
figure. Reinforcedby the neutralizationof Af by ments of its elements.
Bb, mm. 6-7 again sound as if they were in D
major.The metric conflict createdby the repeti- i(x) i(x) i(x) occurrences
tion in m. 6 of the sopranopitches of m. 4 draws x E F# A mm. 58-60 (bass)
attention to the differentharmonizations of the x DE G mm. 1-3, 47-49 (bass)
x B C# E mm. 62-64 (bass)
figure, the first ending on a V4 of B, the second
on a V4of D. Only on the last beat of m. 8 is the m. 63 (sopr.)
dominant of B minor reinstated, but it leads us
back to the ambiguous sonority first heardin m. m. 62 (sopr.)
1. Although the periodicity of the occurrences
m. 59 (sopr.)
of the F# dominant chords in mm. 4 and 8 gives
them more force than they might otherwise ex- Late in the work we realize that much of the
ert, the four-bar symmetry is in conflict with music has been generatedfrom this trichordand
the structure of the melody. The first uncon- its variants:
tested tonality, F# minor (minorv of B, the me-
diant of D), emerges in the passage from mm.
trichordx = maj 2nd + min 3rd (set 3-7)
12-16 and ends with an F#-majorchord, one
that sounds more like a Picardythird in Ft than trichordy = min 2nd + maj 3rd (set 3-4)
a dominant of B.
In addition to the sheer density that is created trichordz = min 2nd + min 3rd (set 3-3)
on the local level by rhythmic and tonal ambi-
guity, Brahms'spiece-like James'ssentence- Trichordsx and y and their inversions permeate
refers to earlier details, directing our attention the piece (ex. 1, 4, 6).9 Trichordz provides the
simultaneously to the present moment and to lowest notes for the final (distorted)reference
the past event it seems to reinterpret.Forexam- (mm. 55-57) to the opening measures.
ple, when the pitches of m. 6 are duplicatedin a In readinga sentence by Jameswe must wait
different tonal context in mm. 24-25, the pass- until its completion to know how the parts fit
ing Bb of m. 6 is understood as a subtle borrow- together, but we can always pause and reread
ing from D minor (ex. 6). until the trajectory or trajectories are clear. In
The most dramaticof these instances occurs listening to music we must hear a work again.
at the end of the piece. The lowest pitches of Although we continue to learn about the struc-
mm. 58-60 form a pattern that is designatedin ture of any piece of music as it extends, in the
the examples as x (set 3-7 in Allen Forte'sclas- Intermezzo Brahms forces us to reappraiseand
sification system). This trichord, transposedin reinterpretthe complex web of relationships to
mm. 62-64 (ex. 4), re-createsthe pattern of the an unusual degree. The Intermezzo does not
lowest pitches in the first three measures of the simply unfold. It grows by making constant ref-
piece (andtheir repetition in mm. 47-49). Both erence to or commentary on what has come be-
transpositions, like the initial version, are dis- fore, with an amazing concentration on in-
tributedin three-measureunits, drawingour at- structing us about how the piece is made. As if
tention to the pattern itself and forcingus to re- in an apprenticeshipto the work, we learn more
evaluate the significance of its earlier and more as it extends. This is an idea to which
statements. Looking closely at the three tri- we will return.
chords Brahms so clearly articulates, we note
that the seven pitch classes are those that are
common to D majorand B minor. Furthermore, 90nly the obvious occurrences of these trichords are
a set made up of the first pitch of each trichordis marked on exs. 1-4 and 6. Many of the pitches in the piece
an inversion of the original (ex. 7). As a result, if can be generated from these sets. It is possible to segment m.
1, for example, to yield three x trichords (E-Ft-A, D-E-G,
the pitches of these crucial statements aregiven A-B-D), three i (x) trichords (B-A-FO, A-G-E, E-D-B), one
horizontally, the resulting vertical trichords, y trichord (F#-G-B), and one i (y) trichord (G-F#-D).

136
24 28 JORDAN/
KAFALENOS
Brahms and
Henry James

Example 6: mm. 24-30.

V mm. 1-3, 46-48 mm. 58-60 mm. 62-64

As we move to deeper levels of structure in i(x)


Atu I I I
search of a "common structural trunk," let us
consider first the question of plot, applying to go# r
the story a procedure developed by Tzvetan To-
dorov, another French structuralist and narrato-
logist, in his study of Boccaccio's Decameron. x --

Perceiving what he terms a "profound analogy x


. . . between categories of language and those of x

narrative," Todorov draws a correlation be-


tween the elements of a narrative and the parts Example 7: Trichords, mm. 1-3, 58-60, 62-64.
of a sentence: characters correspond to nouns,
their attributes to adjectives, and their actions
to verbs. Thus Todorov can represent plot as a
series of propositions, each of which has the Following Todorov's explanation of stories
form of a clause. From his analysis of the Deca- with similar deep structures, we can say that
meron, he finds, the initial state of equilibrium is broken by
The minimal complete plot can be seen as the shift Owen's violation of tradition (his statement of
from one equilibrium to another.... The two mo- his desire not to continue in a military career).
ments of equilibrium, similar and different,are sepa- As a result his family punishes him: his living
ratedby a period of imbalance.10 relatives "cut off his supplies-they're trying to
starve him out" (p. 292); Kate Julian, the woman
If we reduce James's story to a three-part se- he has probably been expected to marry, tells
quence, closely following the pattern of one of him "such conduct doesn't begin to be that of a
Todorov's examples, the result might read: gentleman" (p. 308); the portrait of his great-
great-grandfather glowers at him, "fairly stirs
Owen violates family tradition-- on the canvas, just heaves a little, when [he]
Owen's family punishes Owen--_
Owen dies to atone come[s] near it" (p. 297); presumably the great-
great-grandfather's ghost carries out the sen-
(The arrows indicate a causal relationship between tence of execution. In dying, Owen atones for
successive units.) his violation of tradition, restoring a similar but
different state of equilibrium.
The sequence of clauses to which we have re-
'0Tzvetan Todorov, "Structural Analysis of Narrative,"
Novel: A Forum on Fiction (1969), 70-76; rpt. in Contem- duced the plot conforms to the narrated events
porary Literary Criticism, ed. Robert Con Davis (New York, at every point. Yet most readers of "Owen Win-
1986), pp. 327-28. In this essay Todorov summarizes his grave" would question whether the resultant
more extensive study of Boccaccio's Decameron, which un-
derlies aspects of our methodology: Grammaire du Deca- interpretation-that Owen's death is his pun-
meron (The Hague, 1969). ishment for having violated family tradition-
137
19TH completely expresses their response to the sto- complexity of James's story. Whereas Todorov
CENTURY
MUSIC ry's ending. Is punishment for a sin the only way can represent the stories of the Decameron by a
to understandOwen's death? single trajectory, James's story requires two tra-
Let us reduce the story again, this time to a jectories, which are not only different but con-
different sequence of clauses: tradictory. In the first trajectory, Owen's family
is victorious; Owen's death represents his fami-
Owenis a bravesoldier+ ly's victory over him. In the second, Owen is
Owen'sfamilybelieveshe lackscourage+ victorious; his death represents his victory over
Owendieslike a bravesoldier his family, his proof that it was a mistake to
doubt his courage. Which Wingraves win?
(The"+ "indicatesthatunitsaresuccessivewithout We begin to understand why the ending of
implyingcausality.)
"Owen Wingrave" may seem unconvincing.
This time we start with an attribute,Owen's ap- When James wrote a dramatized version of this
titude for the military, which is emphasized story as a one-act play in 1908, George Bernard
throughout the story. Coyle, whose profession Shaw, who read it in manuscript, criticized the
is "to make soldiers," says that "as regards conclusion in words that express most readers'
Owen Wingrave,there's no 'making'needed ... sense of dissatisfaction when they first discover
to my sense he is, in a high sense of the term, a that James's ending makes of the ghost a spiri-
fighting man" (p.308). In this second sequence, tus ex machina. Shaw wrote to James:
also closely modeled upon one of Todorov's,the
characterdoes not change but the perception of It is really a damnablesin to drawwith such consum-
him does: Owen's family interpretshis desireto mate art a houseful of rubbish,and a deadincubus of
a father waiting to be scrapped;to bringon for us the
leave the military as an indication of weakness hero with his torch and his scrappingshovel; and,
on his part. In agreeing to be locked up for the then, when the audience is saturatedwith interest
night in the room haunted by his great-great- andelated with hope, waiting for the triumphandthe
grandfather,Owen finds a way to demonstrate victory, calmly announce that the rubbish has
his courage,a demonstrationthat is all the more choked the hero, and that the incubus is the really
heroic because he has already spent the pre- strong master of all our souls. Why have you done
this?
vious night there. As Coyle perceives the situa-
tion, Owen shows his James wrote to Shaw, "You simplify too
much,"12 and refused to change his ending. The
readinessto faceGodknewwhatunholystrain-an name of the protagonist offers an additional in-
exposurethe moretryingto excitedsensibilitiesas dication that James is fully aware of the com-
thepoorboyhadnowlearnedbythe ordealofthepre-
viousnighthow resolutean efforthe shouldhaveto plexities of the double trajectory. Since the
make(p.318). names James gives his characters often suggest
aspects of their personalities that will be devel-
In this second sequence the equilibrium is be- oped during the story, or acts that will come to
tween the similar but different states repre- symbolize their lives, Owen Wingrave's name
sented by Owen as courageous and alive at the may represent both trajectories of our two se-
beginning of the story and, at the end, coura- quences: owe and win grave. Owen wins his
geous anddead.Owen Wingravewins his grave.l1 grave according to our second trajectory, in
This sequence too, like the first one, is sup- which he dies to prove his courage. He owes his
ported by the factual data of the story. To- death in our first trajectory, in which he dies to
dorov'smethod, which he developedas a way to atone for violating family tradition.
analyze and representthe relatively simple nar- However deceptive and unsatisfying the end-
ratives of the Decameron, offersus a way to ana- ing may initially seem, the more we contem-
lyze and demonstrate the far greater narrative plate it the richer it appears. Owen does show

"LeonEdelnotes in the name "Wingrave"a suggestionthat


Owen is "capable of winning his grave." See The Henry '2Quotedin Ghostly Tales of Henry James, ed. Leon Edel
JamesReader,ed. Leon Edel (New York, 1965),p. 510. (1949;rpt. New York, 1963),pp. 143, 144.
138
his courage in the manner of his death, but his D-major and the B-minor trajectories through- JORDAN/
KAFALENOS
reward is insufficient for a traditional story out most of the piece. This is possible because of Brahmsand
about a single-minded military hero. Con- the common ground between the two keys- HenryJames
versely, Owen's family succeeds in holding pitches and collections that can exist in either
Owen to a military career, with its attendant tonality. Closely juxtaposeddetails of the pitch
end in death on the battlefield-but the fami- organization can point first to one tonal pole
ly's goal is surely for him to die in defense of his then the other. The pitch AK,for example, exists
country, not of a bedroom in the family home. in both keys, but A# is essential to B minor. As
The double trajectories on the level of plot ex- an appoggiatura,however, AKloses much of its
press a complexity of thought and judgement power to define B, and when it is associated
that we have come to expect in much twenti- with C~ in this work it always indicates D. In
eth-century literature. On a structurallevel, the other words, the leading tone of B minor is not
double trajectories create a form that is teleo- uncommon in the D-major trajectory. The
logical and closed, but in which the ending can- pitches CF and BI seem tied exclusively to D
not be as conclusive as in a work with one main majorin this piece; thus, the powerful C~ in m.
trajectory.For events to coincide with two dif- 57 predicts the turn toward D major that fol-
ferent trajectories,and for a single conclusion to lows. In the first half of the D-majormiddle sec-
bring to a stop two contradictory trajectories tion (mm. 17-30), Gt and Bl are both of impor-
constrain the events-and particularlythe final tance; both support D major while denying B
events-to conform to both trajectories.Inher- minor. But in the second half of the section
ent to such a structureis the requirementthat it (mm. 31-43) Bl is eliminated, and G# is heard
contain no event that strongly indicates the pri- only in m. 32. Thus, while the second partis sol-
ority of one trajectoryover the other. idly in D, its pitches exist in the common
ground of D major / B minor. The creation of
VI these and other small "signs" allows the tonal
Brahms also gives us double trajectories:D question to tilt rapidly from one trajectory to
major and B minor. The interplay between the the other, implying finally that both keys are
two tonalities is a central determinant of the present duringmost of the piece.
nature of the piece. Our use of the term "double Of the first eight measures only two (4 and 8)
trajectories"may suggest parallels between our clearly point to B minor, while two (6 and 7)just
approach and the theory of the "double-tonic as clearly proposeD major.The other four mea-
complex," introduced by Robert Bailey and re- sures are tonally ambiguous, but tend to favor
cently employed by Christopher Lewis. For the major key. Although the Ff minor that
Lewis, "It is this pairingof tonics established so evolves in mm. 12-16 can be interpretedas the
that 'either one can serve as a representativeof mediant of D major,a more convincing reading
the tonic' that Bailey refers to as a double-tonic is that it supports B minor. Nonetheless, the
complex."13According to our reading,the Inter- passage is not simply a tonicization of minor v.
mezzo does not fluctuate between keys, either We hear it as a proposedbut unsuccessful solu-
of which can serve as a tonic, but instead pro- tion to the tonal ambiguity of the first eleven
poses two tonalities, neither of which is estab- measures, an attempt to absorbthe melodic F#s
lished as a definitive tonic until the final mo- that refuse to give way to either B or D. This at
ments. What interests us most is the ambiguity least partially explains why the F#-majorchord
that results from Brahms'sinterlacing of two in- on the final eighth note of the passage (m. 16),
timately related keys. which has the effect of a Picardythird, is not a
Although one of the two keys predominates convincing dominant.
eventually, Brahmsis able to continue both the The second section of the deceptively typical
ternary form is in D. Without transition from
the F -majorchord that ends the first section, a
new material generatedfrom the trichordof the
'3ChristopherLewis, "Mirrorsand Metaphors:Reflections opening bass notes (x)begins on a D-majortriad.
on Schoenberg and Nineteenth-Century Tonality," this
journal 11 (1987), 29-30; Lewis is quoting from an unpub- After the dissolution of the first statement of
lished paper by Robert Bailey, "Das Lied von der Erde." the tune into chromatic tetrachordsthat dropto
139
19TH a dominant of D, a second and considerablyal- statements underpinsthree measures of ambig-
CINUICRY tered statement completes this section, the uous harmony (mm. 62-64). Again the piece
longest of the piece. In the first half of the D-ma- could end in D major after m. 65, in which the
jor section (mm. 17-30), Brahms moves away altered figure borrowed from m. 2 is almost
from the common groundbetween D majorand identical to that of m. 61, but this time, afterthe
B minor with the insistent GOs that push toward At again replaces the A, a seventh pitch in the
the dominant of his major trajectory,and with descending-thirdseries finally leaves us on a B.
the Bbsof mm. 24-26. Within this D-majorsec- A repetition of the B-minortriadin the last mea-
tion, all of the pitches in mm. 17-23 are invari- sure, after the right-handpitches resolve, rein-
ant with the pitch collection of mm. 12-16, in forces the finality of the chord.
Fj minor. In the second half of the section, after Brahms leaves the tonal question hanging
a repetition of two measures of the melody, the until the last chord, a triad that sounds twelve
pitches of mm. 33-43, still solidly in D major, measures after the final convincing statement
duplicate the collection of the ambiguous mm. of its dominant. The D-major trajectory con-
1-8. In fact, the top voice (beginningin m. 32) is tinues until that final chord. Like the James
a transformation of the bass line of those first story, the Intermezzo dependsupon nuance and
eight measures (ex. 8). The middle section of the subtle "reading";it is the maintenance of the
piece, although it never cadences, is clearlyin D double trajectorythat both necessitates andval-
major. Nonetheless, what at first seem to be idates the complexity of the work.
symmetrical halves are in fact quite different.
The first draws sharplyaway from the common VII
groundwith B minor to exploit a chromaticism The two trajectories distinguished at the
more typical of D major, while the second re- level of the sentence were those of the event and
turns to the pitches common to both keys, rein- the perception of the event. Both trajectories
terpreting the pitches of the opening, and even have their parallel in the deeperstructureof the
transformingmaterial from the beginningof the story as a whole. The narrative structure that
piece. Jamesis recognized for having developed in his
Only in the final statement of the primary late works consists of a sequence of events anda
material, beginning in m. 55, is the nature of the sequential perception of them, as two simulta-
structure finally determined.Brahmscould eas- neous processes. In James'slate work, including
ily have closed the piece by alteringthe music of "Owen Wingrave,"the readeris given what the
the F#-minorsegment (mm. 12-16) to cadence central consciousness (in this story, Spencer
in B minor. This would have relegatedD major Coyle) hears and sees, and also what he thinks
to its customary mediant function, the ambigu- and feels in response to what he perceives.14
ities of the earlier sections would be resolved, Dramatizing the event, as James terms his
and the double trajectorieswould collapse. method, means presenting most of the informa-
But Brahms does not allow D majorto be ab- tion through conversations between the central
sorbed by B minor. In mm. 55-57 the final and consciousness and generally one other charac-
most radical treatment of the opening material ter.
points to the subdominant of B, whereas mm. Thus the reader and Coyle receive much of
58-60, which include the first of the important their information simultaneously. The reader
bass transpositions of trichordx, move instead hears and sees every word of the conversations
towardD. The eighth measure from the end (m. and every gesture that Coyle perceives. In addi-
60) presents the strongest dominant of D in the tion, the readeris also given what Coyle thinks
work. At this point, although the closure might and feels in response to the trajectoryof events,
not seem entirely satisfactory, the piece could
end in D simply by resolving the right-hand
pitches of m. 61 into a D-major triad in m. 62.
This solution would produce symmetrical six- '4Intwo passagesin the opening pages, "Owen Wingrave,"
teen-barsections framingthe middle portion of although relatively late in James's corpus, escapes the
greaterrigorof the method in some of the last works;Coyle
the form. But an A# on the last beat of m. 61 in- at home alone and Owen in the Londonparkare described
terferes, and the second of the bass trichord directly, ratherthan as perceivedby anothercharacter.

140
JORDAN/
KAFALENOS
Brahmsand
HenryJames

0
O1.

141
19TH information that is inserted both within andbe- text, the obstructions that arise in the endeavor
CENTURY tween the individual conversations. can illuminate the complexity inherent in the
MUSIC
Reading, one perceives both trajectories si- double trajectory.To readJames'sstory initially
multaneously: watching the events unroll, and merely to discover what has happenedis unre-
also watching Coyle watch them unroll. A very warding; the density of the language precludes
long sentence near the end of the story offersan rapidreading,and the ending producesas many
example. Note that Coyle discovers what has questions as answers. An analytical reading of
happened by perceiving Kate Julian's response James's story most resembles the reading of a
to it, while we learn about it by watching Coy- detective story, a genre that characteristically
le's response. portrays its events as two separable,although
sometimes overlapping, chronological se-
At a turnofoneofthepassages[Coyle]cameuponthe quences: one series of events that culminates in
whitefigureofa girlin a swoonon a bench,andin the a crime, and another series that leads to its de-
vividnessof the revelationhe readas he went that tection. Since both of these sequences in a de-
KateJulian,strickenin herpridetoo latewith a chill tective story are easily understood in initial
of compunctionfor what she had mockinglydone,
had,aftercomingto releasethe victim of her deri- readings, to suppress the memory of them can
sion, reeledaway,overwhelmed,fromthe catastro- add excitement to later readings. In James's
phe that was her work--the catastrophethat the story, however, since no clear idea of what has
next moment he found himself aghastat on the happenedis ever available,and since the percep-
thresholdof anopendoor(pp.318-19). tion of the event, not the event itself, is height-
ened emotionally, a third stage of readingis no
In this climactic passage, it is the perception of
more successful than an initial reading. In
the event that is heightened emotionally, not
"Owen Wingrave,"the text instructs the reader
the event itself. to move to an analytical mode, on the first and
In a comparative study of the perception of
music and literature, EdwardT. Cone outlines any subsequent readings.
Cone's primarymusical example is Brahms's
three stages of reading and rereading,taking as
his example one of the stories about Sherlock Intermezzo, op. 118, no. 1, which he readsas if it
were a mystery story in which the mystery is
Holmes. According to Cone's schema, after an
the detection of the tonic. Although the first
initial linear reading that follows the sequence
of the telling to discoverwhat has happened,the reading identifies the tonic, it is only after fol-
readermoves to a second stage in which he ana- lowing a number of false "leads"that one even
recognizes that a mystery exists. In a second an-
lyzes the sequence of the telling to determine alytical stage, the tonal relationships are cla-
its relationship to the sequence in which the
rified and the piece can be seen as a unified
events occurred, a sequence remembered and
reconstructed from the earlier reading.In what structure, but the mystery fails to materialize.
The third stage, in which a portion of the analy-
Cone proposes as an ideal third stage of reading, sis is suppressed, allows us to appreciate the
the process of thought is portrayed as double
diachronic linearities of experience and mem- mystery, this time informed by an understand-
ing of the terms of its projection. Cone finds es-
ory; the readeris fully attentive to the sequence sential to a successful hearing of op. 118, no. 1,
of the telling, while suppressing memory suf- the ambiguity that results from the fact that
ficiently to retain as much excitement as possi- harmonic functions and tonal relationships
ble.15
If we attempt to re-createCone's three stages emerge in specific contexts in time, while real-
of reading, adopting "Owen Wingrave"as our izing that the ambiguity dissolves when, with
the insight gained from analysis, the mystery in
all its facets is solved.
In op. 119, no. 1, however, Brahmshas done
"EdwardT. Cone, "Three Ways of Reading a Detective more than exploit ambiguities inherent in the
Story-or a Brahms Intermezzo," Georgia Review 31 temporal progression. The intensity of his ma-
(1977), 554-74. Cone also uses the term "a double trajec- nipulation of ambiguous relationships in this
tory" (p. 558), not as we do to describea structuraltype (an
aspectof a work)but to representthe doublediachronicline- piece results in a structure that cannot be re-
arities of the third stage of reading(apatternof perception). duced to a single tonal trajectory.The piece is
142
not analogous to a mystery story; its B-minor bility in a form that still remains closed. It is JORDAN/
KAFALENOS
ending is not surprising, nor does it "solve" is- characterized by a weakened closure that Brahms and
sues raised by the music that precedes it. By lessens the finality of its conclusion, and by a Henry James
maintaining both the B and D trajectories, degree of density that demands great attentive-
Brahms has created indeterminacies that analy- ness to detail. Commenting on an earlier ver-
sis cannot resolve without destroying not only sion of this study, Lawrence Kramer raises the
the enjoyment but the very identity of the question of how these works, and others of the
piece.'6 Induced to engage in a series of analyti- period that are similar in their degree of density
cal readings, the listener is not given solutions and ambiguity, "give a stylistic impression of
that resolve the ambiguities, but rather is in- insistent, even exaggerated continuity."18 We
structed how to appreciate their beauty as well propose that the solution, at least for these
as the depth of their significance to the struc- works, lies in the manner in which the two tra-
ture of the piece. jectories are combined.
Todorov discusses "the representation of the Recent approaches to narratology suggest
process of learning [which] reaches its apotheo- that sequences or trajectories may be combined
sis in the work of a Henry James . . . where we in addition to simply linking one after another,
are often told only the apprenticeship process either by embedding one within another, or al-
without ever learning anything at all."'7 In the ternating parts of one with parts of the other.19
story, both the trajectory of the sequence of Embedding creates a hierarchy of container over
events and the trajectory of Coyle's perception the contained; alternating creates gaps and dis-
of the events can be discerned. The apprentice- continuities. In twentieth-century works one
ship process through which Coyle learns to un- often finds the discontinuities of alternating
derstand the events he is perceiving represents patterns, or of an embedding that escapes hier-
our experience as we read the story, and as we archy by reversing it: the container holds the
listen to the Brahms piece. Although ultimately contained, which also holds the container. In
the Intermezzo is in B minor, and "Owen Win- our two works, however, with their "insistent
grave" is a ghost story, to perceive them only as continuity," neither pattern seems to apply. In-
such is to lose the very richness and ambiguity stead, in the James story and the Brahms piece,
on which their value rests. The double trajecto- both trajectories which make up each double
ries of both works undermine the stable posi- trajectory seem simultaneous and unbroken.
tion of the perceiver in the causal, teleological We demonstrate this pattern perhaps most
universe of a single-trajectory work, forcing the clearly with reference to the double trajectories
reader and the listener to attend to the details in we have just been discussing in the story: the
the way Coyle attends to the details of what he trajectory of events and the trajectory of the per-
perceives. In an apprenticeship like Coyle's, we ception of events. Every perception Coyle gives
learn how to perceive the story and the piece as us adds to our information about the events;
we read and listen to them. everything we learn about the events is given to
us as one of Coyle's perceptions. Each moment
VIII of the story adds simultaneously to both trajec-
Viewed historically, the double trajectory tories.
may be seen as a transitional structure, one that In the Brahms piece too, the same material
allows the introduction of a high degree of insta- conveys both trajectories. Most of the pitches
and many of the tonal constructs in B minor and
D major are identical. In more traditional tonal
16Weare arguing against readings that validate a single tonal works, the combination of pitch collection and
interpretation. Dunsby, for instance, marks the harmony of ordering guides us in the determination of key.
the opening measures of op. 119, no. 1, as if they were in B In this work, as we have seen, we lack the most
minor and summarizes the form as two B-minor sections
flanking the D-major middle section (pp. 89-91, 101). Even singly significant of such relationships, the
though Dunsby's discussion of the piece stresses its ambi-
guities, he insists on resolving the tonal question, reading
the piece as a mystery story (to be solved).
'7Tzvetan Todorov, Introduction to Poetics (1968, 1973), "In a letter to the authors, 2 June 1987.
trans. Richard Howard (Minneapolis, 1981), pp. 57-58. 9Todorov, Introduction to Poetics, pp. 52-53.

143
19TH dominant-to-tonic cadence. Even those pitches demonstrating a lack of courage.In each pair of
CENTURY
that in other contexts would denote one key or trajectories,in all three cases, every event con-
the other, in this piece raise the question of tributes to the ongoing process of both trajecto-
whether to interpret them as decorative in one ries. The ambiguity created by the double tra-
key or as indicative of the other. Even at the jectory, while still avoiding the discontinuity of
level of plot in the James story, our third deep- twentieth-century patterns, places the "com-
structure double trajectory, the pattern of si- mon structural trunk" of our two
multaneous trajectories holds. What indicates works exactly at the end .
to one perceiverthat Owen is very brave,for ex- of the nineteenth century. .
ample, indicates to someone else that Owen is

IN OUR NEXT ISSUE(SPRING1990)

ARTICLES EVANBAKER:The Scene Designs for the FirstPerformance


of Carmen

DOLORESPESCE:Liszt's Annees de Plerinage, Book 3:


A "Hungarian" Cycle?

MARY SUE MORROW:Of Unity and Passion: The Aesthetics


of Concert Criticism in Early Nineteenth-Century Vienna

SCOTTBURNHAM:Criticism, Faith, and the Idee:


A. B. Marx's Early Reception of Beethoven

REVIEWS By David Grayson,JohnDaverio, LawrenceLevine,


and Piero Weiss

144