First Advisor

Janice Dickensheets

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type


Date Created



Russian composers, including Glinka and The Mighty Five, helped establish a Russian nationalistic style in art music through the implementation of idiomatic folk music gestures and other commonly employed musical elements. Scholars, including Richard Taruskin, Barry Bilderback, and Pieter Van Den Toorn, have identified many of these elements, particularly the use of the octatonic scale and folk music material (thematic quotations and associative rhythmic patterns), however, they have not provided clear codification of a Russian topic. Likewise, the music of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov has been largely ignored when compared to that of his contemporaries, though most research indicates he was heralded as a nationalistic composer.

This research creates a working lexicon of the Russian nationalist style through a synthesis of the musical elements identified in the extant scholarship with those derived from an analysis of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel. Among the most important lexiconic elements are pentatonic and octatonic scales, the Russian submediant, orientalism, and interpretations or mutations of folk music. While these gestures on their own are not specifically Russian, when used in conjunction with each other, they generate a strongly nationalistic topos.

The Golden Cockerel, a musical and theatrical satire of Alexander Pushkin’s 1834 fairytale, is particularly suited to an exploration of this topos. Its use of folkloric theme mutations and allusions to traditional rhythmic patterns, orientalism, and pentatonic and octatonic scales demonstrates Rimsky-Korsakov’s adherence to a well-developed national style, a style that may also provide insights into Stravinsky’s own brand of nationalism as demonstrated in Firebird and Petrushka.

Abstract Format



Arts and Humanities | Music


35 pages

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