Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Richard Strauss, harmonic transformation, triadic transformation, seventh chord transformation, cardinality transformation, non-functional harmony, nineteenth-century harmony, Geduld, Neo-Riemannian theory

Major Advisor

Richard Bass

Associate Advisor

Peter Kaminsky

Associate Advisor

Ronald Squibbs

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


A prolific composer from a young age, Richard Strauss wrote hundreds of works in his first compositional period. Many of these are forgotten, overshadowed by the tone poems composed beginning in 1886 and also by the operas that followed after the turn of the century. Much of the music written near the end of the first period, however, is the work of an accomplished composer, albeit one who has not fully attained his final compositional voice. These works frequently contain passages of intense harmonic experimentation, a characteristic associated with Strauss throughout his career. These passages are frequently non-functional, yet they are incorporated within the harmonic fabric of the work in significant ways. Starting with the Riemannian P, L, and R transformations, this study introduces a system of harmonic transformation applicable to the study of these types of passages in Strauss’s early music.

Chapter 1 introduces the music of Strauss’s first period, placing it within the context of his career. Chapter Two examines triadic transformations in these works and introduces a system of harmonic transformation that includes major, minor, diminished, and augmented triads. Each transformation is assigned a unique transformation name and a transformation vector, a compact description of the motion of each member of the initial harmony across the transformation. In Chapter Three, this system is expanded to include major, major-minor, minor, half-diminished, and fully-diminished seventh chords. Again, each transformation is assigned a unique name and a unique vector.

Chapter Four introduces cardinality transformations, which allow for movement between triads and seventh chords, again with unique names and vectors for each. Chapter Five is an analysis of a single song, “Geduld” Op. 10 No. 5, that demonstrates Strauss’s use of these transformations in a work, employing them not only to express the dramatic content of the song, but also integrating them into all compositional levels, from the smallest motive, phrases, and even the tonal structure of the song. Chapter Six summarizes the previous chapters and places this transformational theory within the larger context of tonal harmonic theory, including Shenkerian theory.