Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Virgil Thomson and Kenneth Koch: Text Setting in the Songs "Mostly About Love"

    Author:
    Mary Thorne
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Norman Carey
    Abstract:

    The songs of Virgil Thomson, a major musical figure in twentieth-century America, go largely unsung. As a composer, Thomson took special care in setting words to music. This is evident in his more popular works, the operas set to librettos by Gertrude Stein, Four Saints in Three Acts (1928) and The Mother of Us All (1947). The success of these works supports the importance of a close examination of Thomson's song repertoire. This study examines four songs by Virgil Thomson set to poetry by Kenneth Koch. These four songs comprise the set Mostly About Love (1959): "Love Song," "Down at the Docks," "Let's Take a Walk," and "A Prayer to Saint Catherine." My approach utilizes the writings of Virgil Thomson and focuses on his use of "word-groups" discussed in his book Music With Words: A Composer's View. I examine the poetry of Kenneth Koch and the collaboration between Thomson and Koch. I provide a poetic and musical analysis to offer insight into the relationship between words and music in these songs. The purpose of this study is to reveal the lasting value of these songs, encourage their performance, and bring attention to Thomson's song literature.

  • Richard Strauss's Violin Writing in His Early Years From 1870 to 1898--The Influence of The Violin Sonata

    Author:
    Pei-Chun Tsai
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Norman Carey
    Abstract:

    The development of Richard Strauss's writing for violin from the early chamber music works up to the violin sonata, a milestone in his development, which foreshadows his compositional style for the violin parts in his tone poems. Performance suggestions and analysis of selected passages from the tone poems will demonstrate the relationship of those works to his earlier compositions. With an analysis of the Sonata for Violin and Piano Op. 18.

  • Xenakis in America

    Author:
    Charles Turner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    Iannis Xenakis had a long-standing interest in the U.S., but given the five years he spent here, little has been written about his experiences. This study attempts, through archival research and interviews, to document Xenakis’ time in the United States. Its subject is his relationship to American cultural institutions, and in what lured Xenakis here for musical composition and research. The narrative treats the period from Copland’s invitation to Tanglewood in 1963, through Xenakis’ 1972 investment by France as a state-supported artist. While he visited the U.S. many times thereafter, he no longer sought long-term engagement with U.S. institutions, but presented work completed elsewhere. After his summer at Tanglewood, I track performances of Xenakis compositions by Schuller, Foss and Bernstein (among others) throughout the 1960s and 1970s. I examine Xenakis’ association with Balanchine, and the reception of Xenakis’ theoretical writings, culminating in the publication of Formalized Music in 1971. I give an account of Xenakis’ collaboration with Alexis Solomos on Aeschylus’ Oresteia, produced in 1966 by the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre, as well as the founding of Xenakis’ research center CMAM at Indiana University in 1967, which he would build over the next five years. Concerning Xenakis’ reasons for coming to America, I argue for two major motivations. First, there were reasons to look beyond France: its state institutions, up to the late 1960s, provided little support for avant-garde composition. Later, there were reasons to return: with the Polytope de Cluny of 1972, the Ministry of Culture signaled a policy change that favored Xenakis, and established his CeMAMu as a state-supported research center. Second, Xenakis’ opportunities in the U.S. satisfied his interest in working outside the boundaries of autonomous composition. The collaboration on the Ypsilanti Oresteia offered Xenakis involvement with both ancient and modern Greek theater, and Bloomington’s sponsorship of CMAM, which included the equipment necessary for computer synthesis of sound, gave Xenakis access to technology unavailable in France at the time.

  • Contextual Transformations in Timbral Spaces

    Author:
    Tolga Tuzun
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Philip Lambert
    Abstract:

    This dissertation introduces a methodology for the analysis of timbral structures. The focus is on how to organize theoretical constructs based on timbral objects and their transformations in a musical composition. Transformational theory, artificial intelligence theory, music cognition, and psychoacoustics will serve as references while constructing multiple parallel approaches to the questions that arise from the perception of timbre-oriented music, i.e. electro-acoustic music, questions such as categorization and behaviors of sonic objects, processes that relate them, and challenges of new formal organizations. My intention is to supply analytical tools that are flexible and accessible enough to contribute to and coexist with pitch-based approaches. A generalized semantic theory of timbre is not the objective; this dissertation offers more of a cognitive exercise in how to uncover/discover contextual group operations in a timbral space

  • Julius Klengel (1859-1933) and Hugo Becker (1864-1941): Their Works and Legacies as Violoncello Performers and Pedagogues

    Author:
    Yu Chi Vicky Wang
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Barbara Hanning
    Abstract:

    Julius Klengel (1859-1933) and Hugo Becker (1863-1941) were two of the most influential cellists of the late nineteenth century. Both were closely associated with the Dresden cello-school tradition of Grutzmacher and masters of interpretation of Romantic-period composers. However, very little has been written about their respective beginnings, concertizing careers and accomplishments, teaching styles and materials, compositions and editions, and philosophies relating to cello technique. Nonetheless, Klengel's and Becker's legacies and contributions to cello literature and technique continue to influence cellists today. Thanks to the memoirs of their contemporaries and students through an analysis of recordings, technical studies, perofrmance editions, and published compositions, this dissertation attempts to investigat the different aspects of their respective careers, illuminating the similarities and differences between these two German master cellists. This dissertation also revisits the evolution of cello techniques, performance practices, and repertoire just prior to the emergence of Casals's revolutionary teaching philosophies, which shaped the succeeding generation of cellists.

  • A HIstory of the New York Flute Club

    Author:
    David Wechsler
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Bruce MacIntyre
    Abstract:

    Abstract A History of the New York Flute Club by David J. Wechsler Advisor: Dr. Bruce MacIntyre The New York Flute Club is one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the United States. The club has been a fixture on the New York City music scene since its inception in 1920. It was formed as a gathering place for amateurs and professionals alike to promote the flute in both social and performance contexts, and has had a direct impact on the musical life of flutists who have come to New York City to study and perform. From the historic perspective, it has provided a meeting ground for flutists to network for many years. From an artistic viewpoint, it has been a place to hear many styles of flute repertoire: from the many premieres of conservative style new works to cutting-edge avant-garde pieces; from standard works to chamber music. In addition to conventional flute concerts, there have been early music, jazz, electronic, avant-garde, and ethnic flute performances. The idea for the NYFC took shape in 1920, when a group of seventeen flutists met at the home of its founder, French émigré Georges Barrère, to play the Kuhlau Grand Quartet op. 103. Barrère was then the principal flutist of the New York Symphony Orchestra and flute professor at the Institute of Musical Art (predecessor of The Juilliard School). The club was incorporated in the State of New York on December 31, 1920 and held its first meeting five days later. The Club's activities in the first decade were regularly covered by The Flutist magazine, published by Dr. Emil Medicus, and early programs included flute ensemble music and the works of contemporary composers, including several women. In more recent years, the club has released recordings, mounted exhibits at the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center, introduced competitions, done outreach to schools, and started an annual flute fair. The club's value to scholarly research lies in its longevity as an organization, its advocacy of the French style of flute playing, its flexibility in a time of changing artistic tastes, and the large number of concerts that have been performed by great flutists for the past 91 years. It is a club worth knowing more about. The appendixes to this study include a detailed chronology of the repertoire and personnel of the club's concerts, as well as separate lists of concerts performed by officers and/or key personnel of the club whose presence in the club's history is noteworthy. These include John Wummer, Harry Moskovitz, Paige Brook, and Eleanor Lawrence.

  • A study and reconstruction of _The Passing Show of 1914_: The American Musical Revue and its Development in the early Twentieth Century

    Author:
    Jonas Westover
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Allan Atlas
    Abstract:

    "A Study and Reconstruction of _The Passing Show of 1914_: The American Musical Revue and its Development in the Early Twentieth Century" examines a subject that has been neglected in many fields, including those of music, film, and theater: the revue. Specifically, this dissertation offers a complete restoration of one of the earliest examples of the American revue, with a full score, the script in its incarnations, costumes, photographs, contracts, and a vast array of other pertinent information. This study stands as the earliest example of any musical comedy reconstructed with its original orchestrations, which in this case are by Frank Saddler, a legend in the business for whom no original work has been examined in depth. This revue is important for many reasons: it is the first musical comedy written by Sigmund Romberg, it is one of the most important starring roles for the female impersonator George W. Monroe, and it presents the Broadway debut of Marilyn Miller, one of the biggest stage stars of the 1920s. Significantly, the show uses a script with recurring characters who act out a plot, challenging the very notion of what constitutes the genre of the revue. Biographies of the creators and actors in the show are explored, as is the reception history of the show and its relationship with its major competitor, Ziegfeld`s _Follies_. Issues of orchestration, musical form, melodic and harmonic analysis, and the formulation of a musical hit are also examined. The result of this research indicates that The Passing Show was a series that relied on its audience`s knowledge of the complete Broadway experience--from operettas and ―straight plays to musicals and vaudeville--for references and for a sense of cohesion that the modern revue purposefully eschews. This study provides a unique window into the world of early American musical theater.

  • Ralph Shapey and the Search for a New Concept of Musical Continuity, 1939-66

    Author:
    Barry Wiener
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Sylvia Kahan
    Abstract:

    This dissertation creates a narrative for the stylistic development of the American composer, Ralph Shapey, during the first half of his career. Shapey's music represents a fusion of Schoenbergian metamorphic process and Varésian stasis, methods for the creation of musical continuity that are usually considered incompatible. I show how Shapey formulated his compositional techniques, influenced by his teacher, Stefan Wolpe, and his friend, Edgard Varèse. Shapey's interest in the music of Schoenberg was mediated through the prism of Wolpe's musical ideas. Wolpe used unordered pitch-class sets to present the aggregate in his music, and avoided Schoenberg's neo-classic and neo-baroque forms in favor of more fluid continuity procedures. Shapey developed an interest in the use of block forms through his study of the music of Béla Bartók, Olivier Messiaen and Edgard Varèse. He began to employ techniques derived from Varèse's music during the mid-1950s, including the use of static constructions and the exploitation of a wide musical space. At the same time, he continued to use the procedures of pitch organization that he had learned from Wolpe. During the early 1960s, Shapey synthesized the opposing musical tendencies represented by Wolpe's dynamic narrative processes and Varèse's use of stasis. Chapter 1 outlines Wolpe's compositional pedagogy, and shows how Shapey applied his teacher's concepts in his student works. Chapter 2 explores Shapey's vacillation during the early 1950s between traditional methods of motivic development and the creation of sound blocks. Chapter 3 addresses Shapey's abandonment of the concept of metamorphic process in favor of stasis during the years 1954-58. Chapter 4 covers Shapey's systematization of his new compositional techniques in the years 1959-61. Chapters 5 and 6 examine Shapey's synthesis of metamorphic process and stasis during the early 1960s. Chapter 7 presents a detailed analysis of movement IV of Shapey's Incantations for Soprano and Ten Instruments (1961), illustrating Shapey's use of the technique of varied repetition as a continuity device. The dissertation concludes with a comparison of Shapey's compositional pedagogy and that of Stefan Wolpe, showing similarities in their discussion of pitch, rhythm, musical space and counterpoint.

  • Focal Dystonia in Pianists: The Role of Musical Institutions

    Author:
    Judy Woo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Sylvia Kahan
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the role of musical institutions in the prevention and possible cure for focal dystonia through the possible collaboration between the medical, pedagogical, and performance professions. The first chapter will outline the medical profession's role in musicians' health, including the diagnosis and current treatment of focal dystonia. The second chapter outlines the pedagogical profession's role in the prevention of focal dystonia and includes an analysis of several pedagogical retraining programs seen through the eyes of the medical, pedagogical and performance professions. The final chapter covers the performance profession's role in focal dystonia, and includes interviews with the celebrated pianists Gary Graffman and Leon Fleisher.

  • At the Threshold: Edgard Varèse, Modernism, and the Experience of Modernity

    Author:
    Robert Wood
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Richard Kramer
    Abstract:

    The writings of composer Edgard Varèse have long been celebrated for their often ecstatic, optimistic proclamations about the future of music. With manifesto-like brio, they put forth a vision of radically new instruments and sounds, delineate the parameters for spatially oriented composition, and initiate the discourse of what would become electronic music. Yet just as important for understanding Varèse is the other side of the coin: a thematics of failure concerning the music of the present--a failure of old instruments to transcend their limitations, a failure of technique to achieve certain compositional ideals, and a failure of music to connect listeners adequately to the vital current of the times. This dissertation explores the connection of Varèse's visions of transcendence, together with his continual refrain of art's metaphysical failure, to one of modernism's utopian and impossible demands: that the artwork somehow seize upon or make contact with modernity itself--that it be, in the words of Rimbaud, "absolutely modern." In Varèse's case, this will mean a desire--stemming partially from the sense of always being left behind by the coursing temporality of post-war modernity--for works (and through them, listeners) to enter into an intimate communion with the modern world, providing a kind of unmediated contact with the creative-destructive drive of the new. Chapter 1 will explore this desire by way of Varèse's interest in the siren, whose continuous parabolic curves will come to symbolize an unmediated realm of the musical real beckoning just beyond the clumsy reach of the tempered scale. In chapter 2, Varèse's desired immediacy will take the form of the absolute present, which the artwork will attempt to apprehend both through its collaboration with science and through what Varèse will call its necessary "permanent revolution." In chapter 3, immediacy will be explored by way of Varèse's highly physical, at times violent, notion of sound, which will become a means of making actual contact with the listener's body while dissolving the barriers separating them from modernity's coursing vital stream.