Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 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.

  • 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.