Metric Dissonance in Non-Isochronous Meters Page: 39
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At the end of the first theme group, meter and harmony produce a buildup of tension that
leads to a satisfying resolution at the second theme group. Although "Mars" is written in 5/4
until the development section, which begins in m. 95 with a 5/2 meter, the 5/2 meter is already
suggested at the end of the first theme group. In mm. 34-39, the emerging 5/2 meter battles
against the 5/4 ostinato. In Example 4.2, the sixteenth/quarter-note motives beginning in m. 34
mark the emergence of 5/2. In mm. 34-35, these motives align well with the established 3+2 5/4
meter, as the accented attacks arrive on beats 4, 1, and 4 of those measures. The 5/4 meter is
grouped as such because of the ostinato's short durations on beats 1 and 4 and longer durations
on beats 2, 3, and 5. In m. 36, the accented attacks arrive every two beats: beats 1, 3, and 5 in m.
36 and beats 2, 3(!), and 4 in m. 37. In mm. 38-39, the woodwinds accent beats 1, 3, 5, 2, and 4.
The high horn, tenor tuba, and fourth trumpet lines create a dissonance with this pattern,
accenting beats 2, 4, 1, 3, and 5 in those measures. In other words, every beat receives an accent.
To provide a clearer picture of the metric battle that takes place during these measures, the visual
under the second staff shows the emerging 5/2 meter and a conflicting pulse stream. The red
notes correspond to attack points in the first staff, and the green notes correspond to attack points
in the second staff. I view the 5/2 as the primary metrical consonance because it ends in sync
with the end of the passage at m. 39. The dissonant pulse stream continues, displaced by one
quarter note, until the downbeat of m. 40 (the beginning of the second theme group), where the
attack points are in sync again. Holst corrects the displacement by adding a quarter note (not tied
across the bar line) at the end of m. 39. But what about beat 3 in m. 37? On one hand, this attack
point may be viewed as foreshadowing future metrical conflict between 5/2 and 5/4, as 5/2
battles with the conflicting pulse stream and the ostinato. On the other hand, the B-major triad
attacks constitute a written-out accelerando, as the number of quarter notes between attacks
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Smith, Jayson. Metric Dissonance in Non-Isochronous Meters, dissertation, August 2018; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1248499/m1/50/: accessed April 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .