Shostakovich's Use Of Uncertainty In Music

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Song no. 2 displays how Shostakovich uses uncertainty in major-minor mode to evoke folk-like flavor. In the orchestral introduction of song no. 2 mm. 1-18, the music sounds as if in an F# minor key, but the E major chords in mm. 16-18 that proceeds to the A major chord in m. 19 provide a certainty that the music really is in the key of A major (fig. 15), with the submediant chord at the beginning of the song gives the song a minor flavor. Fig. 15: The dominant chord in mm. 16-18 in song no. 2.
Alfred J. Swan writes that the rhythm in Russian folksong is not rigid because a singer sometimes inserts an odd measure into a song spontaneously, and the song no. 2 displays this trait. Shostakovich inserts one additional beat in each of the first three measures of melody A, resulting a melody A’ that has different meter (figs. 16 and
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18: Melody A’ in B major sung by the choir at the end of the song no. 2 mm 180-190.
In song no. 2, the melody B in C# Aeolian (fig. 19) is part of the melodies sung by the choir, melodies A-A’-B-A’ as seen in the scheme of song no 2 (fig. 20), and it occurs in the middle of the song mm. 88-99 and mm. 128-139. Therefore, there is a direct modulation in fourth relationship between melodies A and A’ in G# Aeolian and melody B in C# Aeolian. Contrary to the melodies A and A’, the orchestra and the melody B are in the same mode, C# Aeolian.

Fig. 19: Melodies B in C# Aeolian sung by the choir in mm 88-99 of the song no. 2.
The major-minor modes fluctuation occur in the harmony where the tonality shifts from major to minor modes and vice versa. Swan explains that the fluctuation between major and minor modes is one of the characters of Russian traditional folksong. Taruskin further mentions that the seemingly unstable interplay of relative major and minor keys reflecting what ethnomusicologists call the ‘mutable mode’ (peremennïy lad) of genuine Russian folklore. In the oratorio, only song no. 2 shows this trait as shown in fig.

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