Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Alfred Cramer

Reader 2

Joti Rockwell

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© 2016 Eron F Smith


This study proposes temporal referentiality—roughly defined as the orientation of substance in its temporal medium—as a theoretical and analytical framework for musical form. Operating on the principle of music as a temporally extended entity, this thesis explores the connections that occur between substance across its medium, suggests an additional interpretation of medium connections (temporality) in terms of language tense, and examines substance connections (referentiality) through different types of filtering.

I also propose a means for visual and literary interpretation of temporal referentiality, depicting a network of substance relationships established over a piece’s timespace. Analysis of this type assumes a listener’s complete familiarity with the substance in its temporal boundaries. Visual representations portray the amount and strength of future- and past-oriented musical substance at a given point in time, including which sections are connected to one another (medium connection) and which variables or features of sameness are responsible for this connection (substance connection). Employing an analogy between orientation and tense, it also becomes feasible to construct a “model prose composition” with the same temporal referentiality as a piece of music. Finally, a system of filtering serves to isolate portions of medium and substance and to clarify what elements are responsible for the elusive concept of “sameness.” The possibilities for temporal reference analysis are applied to the first movements of Bartók’s Fourth String Quartet and Brahms’s Violin Concerto, as well as Bach’s Contrapunctus #9 from The Art of Fugue and the Variations movement of Webern’s Symphony op. 21.

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