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MUSC 4181 PC Set Analysis – Assignment 3

Date assigned: Thursday, 14 February


Date due: Tuesday, 26 February (submission, Friday, 1 March, 4:00pm)

On the next two pages is the score of a song by Alban Berg, “Nun ich der Reisen Stärksten überwand,”
op. 2, no. 3. Written about 1908 (when Berg was 23), this is one of Berg’s last “tonal” pieces – you’ll
note it has a key signature – Aß minor – and several harmonies that sound familiar. A recording of this
song is available on our Moodle site.
Here’s the poem, by Alfred Mombert (1872–1942), along with my account of the song’s overall ternary
formal design. (OK, the poem’s nightmarish sleep imagery is a bit surreal; Berg was having trouble
with insomnia and dosing himself with the latest sleeping pill, veronal…)
A phrase 1 mm. 1–3 Nun ich der Riesen Stärksten überwand, Now I overcame the strongest of giants,

phrase 2 mm. 3–5/6 mich aus dem dunkelsten Land out of the darkest land
heimfand found my way home
B phrase 3 mm. 5/6–8 an einer weißen Märchenhand – led by a white fairy-tale hand –
Hallen schwer die Glocken. Heavily the bells resound.
A’ phrase 4 mm. 8–12 Und ich wanke durch die Straßen And I totter through the streets
schlafbefangen. captured by sleep.

Your mission:
1. Examine the song and pick out that formal design I’ve indicated above. Using your “normal” ana-
lytical tools, see what sense you can make of the song’s harmonies from a tonal viewpoint. Also
look for melodic and rhythmic motivic material. So, get to know the song from a traditional, tonal
perspective. Take notes on this and be prepared to share them in class.
2. Now, let’s see whether pc set analysis can also tell us anything useful. I’ve indicated several seg-
ments, mostly by drawing boxes around the relevant notes; a few vocal segments that have non-con-
tiguous pitches are linked by stems and beams (nothing to do with Schenkerian notation!).
• Begin, of course, by identifying and classifying the sets. Neatly label each set close to its box or
beam, by listing its Forte class-name and the normal-order name of the set, for example 

4–28 [2,5,8,11]

That, of course, isn’t really analysis; it’s just compiling an inventory of sets.
• Now, the analysis. What relationships can we find among the sets we’ve identified? Some main
possibilities:
• repeated sets or set classes
• importance of particular pcs in sets
• inclusion relations (at the set or class level)
• complement relations (at the set or class level)
• Z-relations
• Hidden codes in notes (well, this is Berg!)
Alban Berg, “Nun ich der Riesen Stärksten überwand,” op. 2, no. 3

4 Berg: 4 Gesänge, Op. 2

4 Berg: 4 Gesänge, Op. 2

Include next bass D∂

Omit D∂ and B∂
6

Include next
C∂ and G∂

Omit vocal C∂