Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Alexander M. Cannon

Second Advisor

Dr. Matthew C. Steel

Third Advisor

Dr. Daniel C. Jacobson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Paul R. Solomon


Music, analysis, Alban Berg, Wozzeck, Semiotics

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


In Alban Berg’s opera, Wozzeck, the concept of agency is one of fundamental importance. The oppressive dictates of fate and social position are featured prominently in the plot of the opera, and the characters evaluate their relationship with these oppressive structures in order to direct their agency. This thesis explores how Berg uses musical form, leitmotivs, and semiotic topics to show how characters engage in this evaluative act and ultimately find agency in their world. Music-drama analysis in this paper is approached from a Peircean semiotic perspective, exploring how the dramatic meaning behind the music is used to inform the evaluative process. Ultimately, the analysis of these musical ideas constructs a consistent interpretation of the work, showcasing how the music of Wozzeck is integral to understanding the characters’ motivations, their fears, and the oppressive world within which they struggle to survive.

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