Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Mad Science of Hip-Hop: History, Technology, and Poetics of Hip-Hop's Music, 1975-1991

    Author:
    Patrick Rivers
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Peter Manuel
    Abstract:

    In 1979, the first commercial recordings of hip-hop music were released. The music's transition from the parks and clubs of the Bronx to recorded media resulted in hip-hop music being crafted and mediated in a recording studio before reaching the ears of listeners. In this dissertation I present a comprehensive investigation into the history of the instrumental component of hip-hop music heard on recordings, commonly referred to as beats. My historical narrative is formed by: the practices involved in the creation of hip-hop beats; the technologies that facilitated and defined those practices; and the debates around these two aspects that established the aesthetics of the music. The span of years covered in the dissertation are bookended by the establishment of precision breakbeat compositions on turntables in 1975 and the technological, economic, and legal developments in hip-hop music and culture that became a turning point for the practice of beat making and the sound of hip-hop music beginning in 1991. Beat makers, producers, and engineers--the recordists predominantly responsible for the sound of a hip-hop recording--are cultural producers involved in the social practice of cultural production. As such, the history in this study is informed by ethnographic research in the form of interviews and participant observation. Musical analyses are also utilized to illuminate the historical development of hip-hop music, particularly to display the ways that beat makers created their sound arrangements through the functions of certain technologies. This dissertation explores the intermingling of technology and human practice and serves as a foundation for further inquiry into the effect of technology on music making practices.

  • Pitch-Class Multisets

    Author:
    Thomas Robinson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    The pitch-class multiset (pcmset) is a collection in which pitch classes may appear as elements more than once and in which any single appearance of a pc represents one and only one instance of that pitch class. For example, pitch classes 1, 2, and 4 comprise the pcmset {1,2,4,4}; pc4 occurs twice. This represents some musical situation with two instances of pc4 and only one instance each of pcs 2 and 3. The pcmset has appeared sporadically in the theoretical literature, yet there has been no systematic examination into the ramifications of the distinction between a pitch class and the number of its representatives. This study considers existing music theory in light of pcmsets and considers their use in analysis. First, from an ontological perspective, this study carefully defines the pcmset as distinct from the pitch set and the pitch-class set. Once the relationship between the canonical set classes and multiset classes is established, what follows is an expansive, combinatorial survey of thousands of mset classes. Second, this study revisits the standard tools and concepts of pc-set theory. The interval-class vector, the Z-relation, and complementation all are modified only minimally to accommodate pcmsets and mset classes. What is more, this accommodation gives new insight into the nature of these principles. Throughout, this study uses pcmsets in music analysis by identifying parent class and pcmsets in Webern's Opus 5, by looking at their Fourier balance in a Bach chorale, and by tracking transformations of pitch-class multiplicity in the music of Arvo Pärt.

  • Rong Ngeng: The Transformation of Malayan Social Dance Music in Thailand Since the 1930s

    Author:
    Lawrence Ross
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Stephen Blum
    Abstract:

    This is a historical and musicological inquiry into how rural performers, at the confluence of two distinctly different cultural and linguistic areas, created traditional repertoires from multiple sources. It examines the migration of the well-known ronggeng social dance music of Malaya and Indonesia to southwest Thailand in the 1930s, and the distinctive song and dance genre, called rong ngeng, that subsequently developed there. Rong ngeng was sung and danced to violin and hand-drum accompaniment in public dances where male patrons paid a token fee for an approximately three-minute round with a professional female dancer. It was a popular medium for rural courtship, and performing it was a rite of passage for many young men and women. This dissertation chronicles rong ngeng history from the 1930s until the present, exploring how island communities took up the form, and propagated it throughout the lower Andaman Sea coast. During the genre's golden age of the 1940s and ‘50s, new Thai-speaking performers adopted rong ngeng and transformed its Malayan repertoire (itself a fusion of music from urban theaters, dance halls, and rural folk songs), adapting it to a local Thai poetic form, lullabies, courtship songs, and folk theater tunes. This study traces the development of rong ngeng's two distinct forms: a Malay-language, Malayan-repertoire style of the islands, and a Thai-language, hybrid, coastal mainland style that came to be known as ‘tanjoŋ song.’ Rong ngeng is a case study of a cultural form's transformations as it moves through different social, economic, and linguistic zones. It is also a window into movement and migration of individuals and communities in the twentieth century. Its history provides a local perspective of social developments in a region situated at the confluence of two modern states and the types of changes that took place as political and cultural dominance shifted from Malay to Thai.

  • Analytical Fragments Concerning György Kurtág's "...concertante..." opus 42

    Author:
    Richard Salvage
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Stephen Blum
    Abstract:

    Despite the many apparent differences between it and the majority of compositions in his oeuvre, György Kurtág's ...concertante..., op. 42, (2002-2003, rev. 2006) offers analysts a profound and welcome opportunity to explore his approach to large-scale form. While ...concertante... reflects a formal tightening relative to Kurtág's famous song cycles, its approach to form remains the same: fragments are grouped into sections which in turn comprise the entire work. The difference is that taken together the fragments in ...concertante... bear strong traces of conventional formal paradigms. Because ...concertante...'s fragmentary nature is not as apparent as other pieces, the analyses in this essay draw attention to Kurtág's many techniques of musical interruption-an idea central to the concept of fragment advanced here. Because of the difficulties inherent in the word "fragment," the analyses alternate with discussions about how the term is applied in Kurtág's music.

  • Nikolai Medtner's First Piano Concerto: A Metrotectonic Analysis

    Author:
    Aleksandra Sarest
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Philip Ewell
    Abstract:

    This dissertation focuses on the work of the Russian-born composer Nikolaĭ Medtner, presenting an original analysis of his Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Minor, op. 33. The analysis is preceded with an overview of Medtner's life and his entire body of music, and with a discussion of the composer's artistic beliefs and musical style. Medtner lived at a time when most composers searched for new paths, believing that nothing original could be produced unless there were drastic changes to musical language itself. Medtner was among the few composers who remained loyal to the Western classical tradition. Working within its limits, Medtner was able to find a distinctive and powerful voice. My analysis of Medtner's First Piano Concerto is based on the formal theories of the twentieth-century Russian music scholar Georgiĭ Konius--an approach called metrotectonicism. I also mention Medtner's subtle use of modality in a basically traditional tonal context, applying the theories of another twentieth-century Russian music scholar, Iuriĭ Tiulin. Prior to the analysis of the First Concerto, Konius's metrotectonic theory and Tiulin's theory of the natural and altered modes are both introduced, explained, and used for a sample analysis of a short work by Medtner--his Tale, op. 26, no. 3.

  • Triadic Music in Twentieth-Century Russia

    Author:
    Christopher Segall
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    Twentieth-century Russian music exhibits a diversity of approaches to triadic composition. Triads appear in harmonic contexts that range from tonal to atonal, as well as in referential contexts where triadic music evokes historical styles. Theorists in Russia have approached this repertoire from perspectives that differ from those of their English-speaking counterparts, but because little Russian theory has been reliably translated into English, the work remains largely unknown. This dissertation explores three case studies dealing with the treatment of triads in contrapuntal, functionally harmonic, and atonal contexts respectively, drawing on untranslated (or in one case, poorly translated) writings from twentieth-century Russian music theory. The first study describes Sergey Taneyev's system of generalized invertible counterpoint, arguing that its algebraic approach, designed for sixteenth-century repertoire, can be extended in the analysis of tonal contrapuntal music. The second study traces the history of Russian thought on the common third relation, known in neo-Riemannian theory as SLIDE, the relation joining triads that share a chordal third, such as C major and C-sharp minor. The Russian conception of the relation, which predates the neo-Riemannian, applies not only to triadic adjacencies but also in functional harmonic substitutions, the transformation of thematic melodies, and the altered scale degrees of Prokofiev and Shostakovich. The third study examines the strings of major and minor triads that Alfred Schnittke deploys in his atonal works, arguing that Schnittke has cultivated a framework that deliberately avoids the patterns of tonal writing. This allows the triads to be understood without recourse to "polystylism," a historicizing practice under which Schnittke's triads have typically been subsumed. In general, ideas drawn from Russian-language scholarship complement existing English-language approaches by offering new insights into repertoires that have not been fully understood.

  • John Field's Piano Sonatas Op. 1, Nos. 1 - 3

    Author:
    Juyeon Seong
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Steven Graff
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT JOHN FIELD'S PIANO SONATAS OP. 1, NOS. 1 - 3 by Juyeon Seong Advisor: Professor Raymond Erickson This dissertation deals with John Field's three piano sonatas, Op. 1; these significant compositions marked his debut as a serious composer. He was born in Dublin on July 26, 1782, and died in Moscow on January 23, 1837. Field received early training from his father and grandfather and continued with lessons from Tommaso Giordani. In 1793 Field began studying with Muzio Clementi in London. This was the beginning of a life-long relationship between the two musicians. Field's three piano sonatas, Op. 1, were published by and dedicated to Clementi in 1801; this was to remain his most substantial and ambitious publication. In 1802 Field traveled with Clementi on a tour of Europe and on to Russia. Field remained in Russia until his death. Field performed widely and was in great demand as a pianist and teacher. While in Russia, Field developed the lyric genre of piano music known as the nocturne, thus earning himself a place in the history of piano music. Field was one of the most important pianists and composers of his day. In spite of Field's contemporaneous fame, his music, except for the nocturnes, has subsequently received little attention. This study is the first to present an analysis of his piano sonatas. The main body of this dissertation consists of four chapters: "John Field's Life and Career," "Sonata Op. 1, No. 1," "Sonata Op. 1, No. 2," and "Sonata Op. 1, No. 3." These chapters are preceded by an Introduction and followed by a Conclusion and Bibliography.

  • John Field's Piano Sonatas Op. 1, Nos. 1 - 3

    Author:
    Juyeon Seong
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Steven Graff
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT JOHN FIELD'S PIANO SONATAS OP. 1, NOS. 1 - 3 by Juyeon Seong Advisor: Professor Raymond Erickson This dissertation deals with John Field's three piano sonatas, Op. 1; these significant compositions marked his debut as a serious composer. He was born in Dublin on July 26, 1782, and died in Moscow on January 23, 1837. Field received early training from his father and grandfather and continued with lessons from Tommaso Giordani. In 1793 Field began studying with Muzio Clementi in London. This was the beginning of a life-long relationship between the two musicians. Field's three piano sonatas, Op. 1, were published by and dedicated to Clementi in 1801; this was to remain his most substantial and ambitious publication. In 1802 Field traveled with Clementi on a tour of Europe and on to Russia. Field remained in Russia until his death. Field performed widely and was in great demand as a pianist and teacher. While in Russia, Field developed the lyric genre of piano music known as the nocturne, thus earning himself a place in the history of piano music. Field was one of the most important pianists and composers of his day. In spite of Field's contemporaneous fame, his music, except for the nocturnes, has subsequently received little attention. This study is the first to present an analysis of his piano sonatas. The main body of this dissertation consists of four chapters: "John Field's Life and Career," "Sonata Op. 1, No. 1," "Sonata Op. 1, No. 2," and "Sonata Op. 1, No. 3." These chapters are preceded by an Introduction and followed by a Conclusion and Bibliography.

  • 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.