Schoenberg's "Lockung:" The Questionable E-Flat Major Chord, "Schwebende Tonalität," and Text-Music Relationships

Cynthia Gonzales, Texas State University

Arnold Schoenberg twice selected Lockung, op. 6, no. 7 (1905) to model schwebende Tonalität, a term variously translated as "fluctuating tonality" and "suspended tonality." In the 1911 Theory of Harmony Schoenberg declared that the song "expresses E-flat major tonality without once in the course of the piece giving an E-flat major triad in such a way that one could regard it as a pure tonic. The one time it does appear, it has a tendency, at least, toward the subdominant." By the time Structural Functions of Harmony is issued in the 1940s, Schoenberg abandons his earlier assessment of Lockung and asserts "that the tonic, E-flat, does not appear throughout the whole piece."

My analysis clarifies Schoenberg's avoidance of tonic and his use of Schwebende tonalität to project the narrative in the poem. The singular E-flat major triad -- the sonority Schoenberg initially acknowledges yet later denies -- occurs in m. 50, only 15 measures before the song concludes. It is preceded by its dominant and signifies the end of a chase described in the poem Lockung. Previous statements of the V7-of-E-flat resolve atypically or dissipate into harmonic ambiguity, thereby avoiding harmonic closure and extending the chase. Schwebende Tonalität also depicts the chase: the accompaniment establishes one tonal area, but flees to another when the melody enters.