Associative Tonality and Tonal-Harmonic Third Relations in the Interpretation of Textual and Dramatic Meanings in Richard Strauss’s Elektra

  • Marko Aleksić University of Arts in Belgrade ,Faculty of Music, Department of Music Theory
Keywords: harmony, associative tonality, interpretive analysis, Richard Strauss, Elektra, chromatic third relationship, doubly-chromatic relationship


The subject of research in this paper is the specific manifestation of associative tonality and tonal-harmonic third relations in Straussʼs opera Elektra. Originating from the analytical discourse of several authors, dedicated to opera and musical drama, associative tonality is a dramatic-tonal concept within which a certain key is consistently associated with a specific dramatic element, such as character, collectivity, event, feeling and more. In addition to the strong presence of associative keys related to the dramatic characters, Elektra is distinctly characterized by a chromatic and doubly-chromatic third relation that occurs both between chords and between keys. It is important for the harmonic language of the opera that these two types of relations that are formed between keys, at certain moments become more important than the manifestation of one particular key. New achievements in the field of hermeneutic musical analysis represent the initial assumption in this paper, and within these achievements it is possible to talk about the interpretive analysis of harmony as an interpretation of an opera or music drama. The paper aims to examine the ways in which associative tonality, on the one hand, and two types of third relationships between keys and between chords, on the other hand, function as instances of interpretation, which would provide a deep or completely new understanding of the elements of dramatic structure.

Author Biography

Marko Aleksić, University of Arts in Belgrade ,Faculty of Music, Department of Music Theory

Marko Aleksić has graduated and obtained his master’s degree at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade, where he was employed as a teaching assistant, and as a teacher. In 2021, he obtained his PhD diploma with dissertation The Role of Harmony in the Formation of a Network of Interpretive Relations in German Opera and the Symphonic Lied of the Second Half of the Nineteenth and the Beginning of the Twentieth Century. The area of his professional interest is music theory, especially the area of harmony and harmonic analysis. He has published scholar papers and participated in professional conferences in Serbia and abroad. He is the holder of several recognitions, awards and student scholarships.