Elektra chord

Elektra chord: E B D F A.
Elektra chord
Elektra chord as arpeggio then simultaneously

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Elektra chord
Component intervals from root
diminished fourth
minor second
diminished seventh
perfect fifth
Forte no. / Complement
5-32 / 7-32

The Elektra chord is a "complexly dissonant signature-chord"[1] and motivic elaboration used by composer Richard Strauss to represent the title character of his opera Elektra that is a "bitonal synthesis of E major and C-sharp major" and may be regarded as a polychord related to conventional chords with added thirds,[2] in this case an eleventh chord.

Elektra chord implies an E Major and C Major chord together (C E G = D F A)
Each chord separately as arpeggio then both simultaneously

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In Elektra the chord, Elektra's "harmonic signature" is treated various ways betraying "both tonal and bitonal leanings...a dominant 4/2 over a nonharmonic bass. Like Elektra herself, this chord is both monomaniacal and polymorphic." It is associated as well with its seven note complement which may be arranged as a dominant thirteenth[1] while other characters are represented by other motives or chords, such as Klytämnestra's contrasting harmony. The Elektra chord's complement appears at important points and the two chords form a 10-note pitch collection, lacking D and A, which forms one of Elektra's "distinctive 'voices'"[3]

Motivic elaboration of Elektra chord
Elektra chord as motive

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The chord is also found in Claude Debussy's Feuilles mortes, where it may be analyzed as an appoggiatura to a minor ninth chord, and Franz Schreker's Der ferne Klang, and Alexander Scriabin's Sixth Piano Sonata.[2]

See also


  1. 1 2 Lawrence Kramer. "Fin-de-siècle Fantasies: Elektra, Degeneration and Sexual Science", Cambridge Opera Journal, Vol. 5, No. 2. (Jul., 1993), pp. 141-165.
  2. 1 2 H. H. Stuckenschmidt; Piero Weiss. "Debussy or Berg? The Mystery of a Chord Progression", The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 3. (Jul., 1965), pp. 453-459.
  3. Carolyn Abbate, 'Music and Language in Elektra', in Richard Strauss: Elektra, ed. Derrick Puffett, Cambridge Opera Guides (Cambridge, 1989), 107-27. Cited in Kramer (1993), p.156.

External links

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