Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Music

First Advisor

Scott Price


Boris Asafiev was one of the leading musicologists whose Theory of Intonation is a philosophical and aesthetic study that comprehensively explains the historical and theoretical aspects of musical art. The Theory of Intonation is the methodological basis for music disciplines in Russia, including piano pedagogy. The purpose of this study is to create a source that explains Asafiev’s philosophical and aesthetic vision of the concept of intonation and to show how it can be applied to piano pedagogy. This study is also intended to translate and codify the Theory of Intonation and to provide examples of its implementation in any piano teaching method or repertoire study.

Both volumes of Asafiev’s book Musical Form as a Process1 (published in 1930 and 1947) are devoted to the Theory of Intonation. While the first book presents musical form in a broader social and historical perspective presenting it as a method of communication and organization of musical material that is socially recognized generation by generation, the second book, titled Intonation, discusses the specific aspects of musical language and semantics. Asafiev develops unique terminology to support his ideas and the Theory of Intonation. The concept of “intonation” in the Theory of Intonation has a more comprehensive meaning than the pitch accuracy of a musician or musical instrument. Intonation is “the organization of acoustical media, by the human consciousness, into meaningfully expressive sound correlations.” 2 The author of this study explains in depth the terminology of the Theory of Intonation.

Asafiev followed the ideas of Mikhail Glinka and The Mighty Five composers— Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin—who emphasized the importance of the melodic nature of music. implemented the concept of the melos, an ancient Greek term referring to the succession of musical tones constituting a melody, as one of the key elements of the Theory of Intonation. While any kind of human communication by means of sound involves intonation, intonation in music is distinguished by the use of intervals that form the melos and other elements of music. The author of this study presents the elements of the Theory of Intonation and shows how they co-exist holistically.

Finally, the author of this study provides musical examples and shows how the Theory of Intonation can be merged in piano performance and pedagogy based on her experience, as the process of implementing the Theory of Intonation is unique to each individual pianist.


© 2023, Polina Golubkova