A Framework for Describing Linkage Technique in Tonal Music

Michael Baker, University of Kentucky

When we think of motivic relationships in Schenker's view of musical structure we focus on motivic parallelisms, or situations in which a musical motive is expressed on two or more structural levels. However, Schenker also discussed another type of motivic technique in his writings called Knüpftechnik or "linkage technique," a situation where a new musical phrase or section takes as its initial idea the end of the immediately preceding section and then continues independently. While the concept of motivic parallelism has been discussed in the Schenkerian literature, linkage technique has largely escaped analytical curiosity, with practically nothing of a systematic demonstration of the ways in which, under certain circumstances, this technique can also provide a sense of coherence to musical artworks.

This paper examines Schenker's concept of linkage technique using a nine-fold framework that simultaneously tracks relationships in pitch and rhythm between different motive forms. While the framework is concerned primarily with pitch and rhythm, composers also draw upon changes in dynamics, articulation, and instrumentation, which can either support or compete with the linkage technique. It will be shown that the resulting competition between parameters intensifies the distinct sense of motivic repetition despite large-scale sectional change characteristic of linkage technique in tonal music.