Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Ecological Aspects of the Music of John Luther Adams

    Author:
    David Shimoni
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Philip Lambert
    Abstract:

    The composer John Luther Adams envisions his role as one who re-imagines and re-creates relationships with other human and non-human beings through music. This dissertation consists of an examination of songbirdsongs, Earth and the Great Weather, In the White Silence, Strange and Sacred Noise, The Place Where You Go to Listen, and Inuksuit to determine whether, and how, Adams succeeds in re-creating these relationships. In the Introduction various means of connecting music and the natural world are reviewed, a semiotic and ecomusicological framework for analysis is established, and a listening typology is suggested. In the following chapters, analysis of Adams's six works is based on his compositional process, the musical scores, and the listening process that each piece facilitates. What emerges are multiple ways in which Adams facilitates new relationships amongst people and between people and the natural world. In works like songbirdsongs, Earth and the Great Weather, and Inuksuit, Adams directly employs the sounds of the natural world but helps listeners to focus on them as sounds rather than as tools for his own compositional expansion. Works like The Place Where You Go to Listen and Inuksuit integrate listeners into their specific natural environments. In almost all of his works beginning with Earth and the Great Weather, Adams limits the amount of personal expression that he puts into his music, structuring the music instead according to algorithmic processes. He also transfers creative responsibility to his performers in open works like songbirdsongs and Inuksuit, and in the former ethological rules established by songbirds guide the performers as well. In The Place Where You Go to Listen he leaves determination of the musical surface in the hands of the natural world itself. Finally, in all of his music, Adams asks the listener not to listen to his "message" but rather to an unfolding process in the music that parallels something in the natural world. The pieces reward a patient, prolonged attentiveness with an experience of beauty and/or power and a deep sense of place.  

  • Liszt's Mazeppa: Examining a Composer's Conception Through His Orchestration

    Author:
    Michael Shinn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Raymond Erickson
    Abstract:

    Franz Liszt composed three complete versions of his Études d'execution transcendante over the span of twenty-five years, the Étude en douze exercices (1826), the Grandes Études (1837), and the final form of the Études in 1851. In addition, Liszt wrote another piano version of the fourth Étude, Mazeppa, most likely in 1840, as well as a symphonic poem in 1854. This document attempts to direct the understanding of Mazeppa's compositional development, especially that of the symphonic poem, into an informed interpretation of the 1851 piano version of Mazeppa. The introductory chapter details the evolution of the Études and discusses the extant studies. The second chapter then explores the structural and motivic developments of Mazeppa in its four versions for solo piano. The composition of the last of these works is intertwined with the symphonic poem's development, in that Liszt wrote the particella for the symphonic poem prior to completing this so-called "final" version of the piano Étude (1851). The relationship between these works is the basis for an analysis of the published symphonic poem in the third chapter. The analyses are followed by a comparative discussion of each version's unique features. The final chapter offers a pianist's perspective on the interpretation of Mazeppa based on its numerous manifestations. By examining Liszt's lifelong devotion to Mazeppa both in its pianistic and symphonic forms, this document seeks to enlighten pianists in their own performances of this tour de force.

  • Timbral Transformations in Kaija Saariaho's From the Grammar of Dreams

    Author:
    Karen Siegel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    David Olan
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a study of Kaija Saariaho's 1988 vocal work From the Grammar of Dreams, with a focus on timbre. It begins with background on Saariaho, and research on timbre in music theory and psychoacoustics (Chapters 1 and 2). Chapter 3 shows how Saariaho manipulates timbre to expressive and formal ends in From the Grammar of Dreams, including creating timbral tension and release, applying Robert Morris' Contour Theory in its analyses. Chapter 4 then explores how the timbral transformations interact with non-timbral musical elements. The conclusion (Chapter 5) puts the compositional techniques of this work in the context of Saariaho's evolving style, and explores possibilities for future research.

  • A Derivation of the Tonal Hierarchy from Basic Perceptual Processes

    Author:
    David Smey
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    In recent decades music psychologists have explained the functioning of tonal music in terms of the tonal hierarchy, a stable schema of relative structural importance that helps us interpret the events in a passage of tonal music. This idea has been most influentially disseminated by Carol Krumhansl in her 1990 monograph Cognitive Foundations of Musical Pitch. Krumhansl hypothesized that this sense of the importance or centrality of certain tones of a key is learned through exposure to tonal music, in particular by learning the relative frequency of appearance of the various pitch classes in tonal passages. The correlation of pitch-class quantity and structural status has been the subject of a number of successful studies, leading to the general acceptance of the pitch-distributional account of tonal hierarchy in the field of music psychology. This study argues that the correlation of pitch-class quantity with structural status is a byproduct of other, more fundamental perceptual properties, all of which are derived from aspects of everyday listening. Individual chapters consider the phenomena of consonance and dissonance, intervallic rootedness, the short-term memory for pitch collection, and the interaction of temporal ordering and voice-leading that Jamshed Bharucha calls melodic anchoring. The study concludes with an elaborate self-experiment that observes the interaction of these properties in a pool of 275 stimuli, each of which is constructed from a single dyad plus one subsequent tone.

  • Pagh-Paan's No-ul: Korean identity formation as synthesis of Eastern and Western Music

    Author:
    Ji Hyun Son
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Stephanie Griffin
    Abstract:

    In this dissertation, I address a gap in a great many syntheses of Eastern and Western music, including the crucial moment in Korean music history that brought about revival of traditional music, resulting in the international impetus it has today. In addressing this gap, I chose Younghi Pagh-Paan and her music to initiate a deeper discussion of Korean composers contributing toward the golden age of Korean music, a welcome development in Korean society; it has also heightened pride and respect for the culture and resulted in a robust Korean identity in their music. I have demonstrated ways in which Pagh-Paan promotes and develops the horizontal quality of Korean traditional music, focusing on melody, most unmistakably through her treatment of the nonghyun of central tones, as embellishments and as vibrato technique. She sees these pitches as more than tones within a structural harmony; they are entities on their own right, as Korean melody stands without regard to harmony. Great emphasis is given to timbral development, recalling the Korean percussion sounds reminiscent of pansori and the Korean string sounds of sanjo. Eastern Taoist principles, such as jung-joong-dong, and yin and yang, built into Korean musical construction, are also crucial in understanding Pagh-Paan's musical language. Her conscious incorporation of these breathes new life to core elements of Korean music, bringing them closer to audiences who only vaguely knew of their existence. Pagh-Paan aims at writing music that might be understood and identified by all Korean audiences. Pagh-Paan brings the most basic elements of Korean music together with the more universal, or the modern elements of western music, in several aspects: 1) their advanced techniques; 2) instrumentation for the lower string trio; 3) motivic development; 4) organization around interval relationships; and 5) creation of a harmonic language through intervallic permutations. Her innovations with the mother chord integrate order and coherence into her musical expression. Her mother-chord technique has a basis in Eastern sensibility, the concept of movement within stillness, of Taoist philosophy which opened new harmonic possibilities for composers looking for ideas outside serialism, minimalism, neoclassicism, etc.

  • CONTEMPORARY MUSIC AND THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IN AMERICA FROM 1938 to 1965 AS REPRESENTED IN LETTERS AND DOCUMENTS OF THE DISPLACED UNIVERSAL EDITION COMPOSERS AND THEIR PUBLISHING AGENTS

    Author:
    Sabra Statham
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Allan Atlas
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores the music publishing industry in America from 1938 to 1965 as seen through the letters and documents of the Universal Edition émigré composers and publishers. It presents a previously unpublished collection of letters by the composers Béla Bartók, Arnold Schoenberg, George Antheil, Kurt Weill, and Ernst Krenek, and by the publishing agents Ralph Hawkes, Hans Heinsheimer, Felix Greissle, and Hugo Winter. These documents have been sparingly edited from the original and are surveyed and discussed in each chapter. The documents include a wealth of information on music publishing during this period and show how market trends shaped the music of the Universal Edition composers in the United States from the time of the 1938 Anschluss of Austria, throughout World War II, and into the post-war era.

  • MUSIC FOR THE (AMERICAN) PEOPLE: THE CONCERTS AT LEWISOHN STADIUM, 1922-1964

    Author:
    Jonathan Stern
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    John Graziano
    Abstract:

    MUSIC FOR THE (AMERICAN) PEOPLE: THE LEWISOHN STADIUM CONCERTS, 1922-1964 By Jonathan Stern Not long after construction began for an athletic field at City College of New York, school officials conceived the idea of that same field serving as an outdoor concert hall during the summer months. The result, Lewisohn Stadium, named after its principal benefactor, Adolph Lewisohn, and modeled much along the lines of an ancient Roman coliseum, became that and much more. Lewisohn Stadium was for over forty years the summer home of America's oldest symphony orchestra, the New York Philharmonic. More importantly, the Lewisohn concerts witnessed a particularly impressive and innovative array of talent, creative as well as interpretive. For nearly fifty years, audiences of all social and ethnic backgrounds attended concerts that, together, summed up much of the course of twentieth century American serious music at minimal cost for admittance. This dissertation discusses the music concerts that made up the bulk of the shows put on at Lewisohn Stadium throughout its existence as the summer home of the New York Philharmonic. In particular, this dissertation seeks to answer several questions: To what extent was the performed music representative of the canon as it developed over time? And what can be learned from the myriad attempts made during the Lewisohn concerts at forming a distinctly American, as opposed to a European or Euro-American, musical identity?

  • The Art of the Commonplace: Found Sounds in Compositional Practice

    Author:
    Jennifer Stock
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    David Olan
    Abstract:

    This dissertation contains a historical analysis of the emergence of found sounds or everyday noises as a compositional strategy in Western art music through the first half of the 20th century. Pioneering works are examined to determine the motives and aesthetic goals that first led composers to bring noise to the musical surface, including the avant-garde collaboration Parade, Futurist noise experiments, and Pierre Schaeffer's early work with musique concrète. These early works are used to create two analytical spectra with which to analyze contemporary pieces that incorporate founds sounds with instrumental music: one spectrum that considers the level of integration of a noise with the instrumental or pitched material, and another that measures the degree to which the everyday noises have been defamiliarized from their original context. This mechanism for analysis is employed in four case studies: Steve Reich's Different Trains, Ingram Marshall's Fog Tropes II, DJ Spooky's Zeta Reticulli/If I Told Him a Complete Portrait of Picasso, and The Books' The Lemon of Pink I.

  • Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (The Irish Musicians' Association) and the Politics of Musical Community in Irish Traditional Music

    Author:
    Lauren Stoebel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Jane Sugarman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (The Irish Musicians' Association) and its role in the politics of Irish traditional music communities. A revivalist organization founded in 1951, Comhaltas today is an educational and activist organization whose mission includes the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music. Its numerous programs--from local music classes to a national festival drawing thousands of participants--intersect at some point with the musical lives of nearly every Irish traditional musician. Because of this widespread activity, Comhaltas interacts, often contentiously, with many of the different musical communities through which Irish traditional musicians define themselves both publically and privately. These include local communities defined by parish, family, or geography; a national and/or nationalist "Irish music community"; and international communities enabled by diaspora, technology, and travel. Through methodologies including archival research, participant observation, and ethnographic interviews, this dissertation argues that an understanding of Comhaltas' activities can inform current ethnomusicological understandings of the concept of "musical community." Based on existing literature and my own research, I have chosen to define musical community as the musical performance of collective selfhood. My definition is based on three main themes that appear frequently in research on musical community, including my own: plurality and multiplicity, individuality and collectivity, and process and change. These themes highlight the nuanced ways that musicians "perform themselves into" (or out of) various collectivities over time, often contradicting public extremes of discourse associated with these communities. Chapters cover Comhaltas' role in Irish cultural policy debates and defining a national(ist) traditional music community, the Comhaltas branch and the role of place/geography in local musical communities, Comhaltas' impact on the teaching and transmission of traditional music and community, Comhaltas in the United States, and the clash of performance and community at Comhaltas' annual All-Ireland music festival. In each of these areas, the intensely public and activist nature of Comhaltas' mission makes questions of identity and cultural politics explicit, challenging musicians and others to define and reevaluate their relationships, statements, and performances. This tension, in turn, demands an understanding of musical community acknowledging that it is flexible, porous, and evolving.

  • Music and Genre in Film: Aesthetics and Ideology

    Author:
    Jordan Stokes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Royal Brown
    Abstract:

    Abstract MUSIC AND GENRE IN FILM: AESTHETICS AND IDEOLOGY by Jordan Carmalt Stokes Adviser: Professor Royal S. Brown This thesis examines the multivalent relationship between film music and film genre: the ways that generic syntax and ideological structure shape the use and meaning of music within a genre, and the ways that music, in turn, shapes and complicates film genres and individual films within each genre. Detailed accounts of Melodrama, Horror, and the Western are provided, with examples drawn from (among others) Random Harvest (Mervyn LeRoy, 1941), Penny Serenade (George Stevens, 1941), Picnic (Joshua Logan, 1955), White Zombie (Edward and Victor Halperin, 1932), I Walked With a Zombie (Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur, 1943), Cannibal Holocaust (Ruggero Deodato, 1980) High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952), The 3:10 to Yuma (Delmer Daves, 1957), and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966). The first chapter, "Genre and Music," outlines three possible interactions of film genre and film music, drawing on three basic approaches to genre in the film studies literature: interpretive, economic, and reflexive genre criticism. The interpretive approach argues that each genre has a hidden ideological value system that shapes the narratives and aesthetics of the films within that genre, with musical ramifications that will vary from genre to genre. (A Western, for instance, might use self-consciously old-fashioned music not merely to establish the setting but to establish distance between the world of the audience and the relatively unconstrained world of the diegesis.) The economic approach shows how market forces shape the development of a genre, as when studios use the music from a successful film in the trailer for another film in the same genre. Finally, the reflexive approach accounts for the ways in which artists (and critics) self-consciously shape and react to genres, as when a composer tries to avoid the use of generic clichés when scoring a particular kind of film. The later chapters of this dissertation take a primarily interpretive approach to genre, but the economic and reflexive approaches having been laid out here as a program for future research. The second chapter, "Music in the Melodrama: Where Words Leave Off," argues that one of the currently dominant approaches to film music, according to which music is used to represent the fundamentally unrepresentable emotions of the characters, is in fact best suited to the scores of melodramas. This is, however, not the only thing music will do in melodramas: although it often depicts a character's repressed desires, it also depicts the collective will of the repressive society. This chapter also attempts to clarify the nature of the genre of melodrama (which is notoriously slippery, among film genre scholars), arguing that it is precisely the systematic use of aesthetic gestures such as music to represent underlying ideological conflicts that makes a film melodramatic. The third chapter, "Music in the Horror Film: Terror Chords and Jungle Drums," argues that the genre of horror is undergirded by a structural opposition between some marginalized group and the dominant social order, which in the films takes the form of the conflict between the monstrous Other and the monster's threatened victim. Each of which receives a musical illustration, leading to a contrast between the musical Other (representing, often quite explicitly, the marginalized group) and the music of normality. After developing a general model of horror scoring, this chapter attempts to demonstrate the value of genre for the understanding of specific film scores by making a special study of the Voodoo zombie films of the 1930s and 40s. Although it would be simple enough to suggest that these films are crudely racist, careful attention to their plots and scores reveals a surprising variety of musical meanings, and gives us reason to question common-sense notions of the "appropriate" use of ethnically marked music in film. The final chapter, "Music in the Western: The Cowboy's Epic Situation," advances a new definition of the Western, arguing that the genre is defined as much by an epic narrative voice (which privileges telling over showing, and makes the narrator imminent within the text) as by any subject matter or theme. This sense of epic distance is created in part through mise-en-abyme effects, including musical ones. In High Noon, for instance, a reoccurring song within the film recounts the plot of the film as it unfolds. However, there are also purely musical gestures that have the same effect: non-leitmotivic repetition of cues, the citation of specific musical styles outside of the "normal" language of film music, the use of elaborate performative musical gestures, and the use of simple and lucid musical forms. All of these call attention to the hand of the maker, and thus to the score (and the film) as a made thing.