From Mindy Beth Horowitz's dissertation, "Vocal Melody in Schoenberg's Opus 15: Boundaries of Text and Register",

The song begins with an almost palindromic melody which ascents from B3 to E4, before returning by step to B3, at the beginning of measure 10. (32)

'The song' refers to the first song in op.15. I know what a palindrome is, I suppose, and I can give Bach's Crab Canon as an example of palindrome. However I don't see any palindrome in those measures the author mentioned.

Youtube link to the piece (with the score):

Is there a palindrome in the first song? How? I don't see it.


1 Answer 1


The "palindrome" description is an overstatement (IMO). More accurately, the opening phrase exhibits some symmetrical properties:

  • The first and last two distinct pitches are B-D and D-B;
  • The phrase opens ascending from B to E, then descends from E to B.

Beyond those two observations, there is little to suggest that Schoenberg had symmetrical — let alone palindromic — structures in mind for the song.

Below is a reduction showing segment of melody under discussion, highlighting its more-or-less symmetrical properties.

Vocal pitches in mm. 8–10

The red boxes illustrate the symmetrical opening and closing gestures; the blue arrows show the ascending and descending halves of the phrase.

  • If you disregard rhythm and repetition of pitches, the "almost palindrome" becomes more plausible: "B D B E D C# C D B." The retrograde replaces a single B with a C# and C. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 16:07
  • I would prefer the expressions 'retrograde-like' or 'almost symmetrical in this case, rather than writing 'palindrome'. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 16:54
  • 1
    @moreisless97 Just checking if there's anything more you're looking for from this answer to make it useful for you.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 17:31

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