Ganymed's heavenly descent
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Citation (published version)Jason Yust. 2020. "Ganymed's Heavenly Descent." Music Analysis, Volume 39, Issue 1, https://doi.org/10.1111/musa.12138
Schubert's song “Ganymed” has attracted a great deal of interest from analysts due to its progressive tonal plan, often seen as a challenge to Schenkerian theories of tonal structure, and evocative text. This article draws upon a spatial theory of tonal meaning which helps both to resolve the epistemological impasse faced by reductive theories of tonal structure, and to better access Schubert’s interpretation of Goethe’s text through spatial metaphors that derive from the harmony of the song. It also highlights an allusion to Beethoven's Op. 53 “Waldstein” Piano Sonata in the song that has previously gone unremarked, and identifies this as part of a network of references to Beethoven’s sonata that act both as homage to and critique of Beethoven's middle-period style. These serve both as a window into the song, and into Schubert’s aesthetic stance vis-à-vis his most pre-eminent musical forebear. The theory of tonal space draws upon previous publications, but is re-explained in music-theoretical terms relating to diatonicity and triadicity here. It realizes latent directional metaphors in the diatonic sharp-flat and triadic dominant-subdominant dimensions, which are of hermeneutic value for tonal music. Such a theory helps us interpret Schubert’s tonal plan, explain his choices of keys, and better understand his reading of Goethe's text and aesthetic priorities in setting it to music.