Sibelian Rotational Projection: Erfüllung in Sibelius’s Työkansan Marssi (TAGS)

Society for Music Analysis: Theory and Analysis Graduate Student Conference (TAGS), University of Edinburgh, April 2019


Long before the term ‘rotational form’ was coined by Hepokoski (1993), there was a sense in critical scholarship that Sibelius’s music revolves internally, more so than his contemporary symphonists. This paper argues that this sense emerges in response to the phenomena I term ‘rotational projection’, and not simply ‘rotational form’, which can be found in many other kinds of music.

Sibelian rotations accrue meaning cumulatively in retrospective reference to the previous rotations within a work. However, when reordered material still ‘feels’ like it is rotational, yet does not seem to conform to the expectations of the section in which it appears, it can often be understood using the concept of ‘rotational projection’. Occasionally, material is allowed to project forth beyond, against, or outside the formal expectations of the sonata by calling forth other material that cycles away from it in an order that cannot straightforwardly be predicted from the referential rotation’s ordering.

This paper maps out a working definition of ‘rotational projection’ by applying the concept to Sibelius’s little-known early work, Työkansan Marssi (‘Workers’ March’). Written for the Viipuri Worker’s Association (1896), the march espouses the virtues of ‘good hard work’ in a small ternary form. As voice-leading and phrase analysis reveals, the formal schema’s order and harmonic progressions are fulfilled by the end of the piece but not by the formal route laid out at the opening of the piece. Instead, a small-scale rotational projection unfurls to provide fulfilment through new means: an instance of Adornion Erfüllung [‘fulfilment’].