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.

  • Common-Tone Preserving Contextual Inversions in the Music of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

    Author:
    Jessica Rudman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    To truly understand the melodic and harmonic structures of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's music, a transformational perspective is essential. Discussing her works in terms of motivic analysis, set theory, and other similar approaches is often illuminating but fails to account for certain types of subtle musical connections. Specifically, those methods focus on tracing particular musical objects but do not typically follow whatever characteristic processes might be applied to those objects. Transformation theory, on the other hand, focuses on that aspect and can thus reveal connections overlooked in other types of analysis. Most of the pitch processes Zwilich employs can be described as contextual inversions, which include any inversion around some characteristic element within a set rather than around a specific pitch axis. More specifically, she frequently uses contextual inversions wherein a set is inverted around one of its symmetrical subsets, producing one or more common tones. Various authors have introduced common-tone preserving contextual inversions particular to individual set classes, yet so far no one has explored the family of all such transformations. Drawing on work by scholars such as David Lewin, Joseph Straus, Richard Cohn, and others, I will introduce a generalized theory of common-tone preserving contextual inversions and use that framework to provide insight into Zwilich's style.

  • 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.

  • The Finales of Robert Shumann's Piano Sonatas and Fantasie

    Author:
    Emiko Sato
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Chadwick Jenkins
    Abstract:

    This dissertation sets out to examine the finales of Robert Schumann's Piano Sonatas (opp. 11, 14, 22 [original finale]), and Fantasie (op. 17), with an especial focus on their form, which can be broadly categorized as parallel form. The introduction examines historical criticisms of Schumann's large-scale works, pointing out some of the idiosyncratic features found in Schumann's finales. Each chapter will present a comprehensive analysis of one of the finales. I make use of color diagrams in the formal analyses, which expeditiously and efficiently elucidate the repeating patterns of thematic and transitional materials; they also visually reflect the actual number of measures spent in each section, thus helping the viewer to recognize the deformation occurring in the parallel format of the finales. In addition to form, my analysis draws on observations of harmony, voice leading, phrase structure, and pitch/motivic material. The dissertation then compares Schumann's formal construction of the finales to the plot structure of literary work or film. Based on my analyses, I suggest that the multi-layered design of form and harmony may effectively express a story containing multiple digressions, as depicted in the novels of Jean-Paul Richter, one of Schumann's creative inspirations. My analysis also suggests that Schumann's way of constructing finales is deeply reflected in his double personality, Florestan and Eusebius. In relation to this, my dissertation includes a discussion of these finales' potential psychological effects on the listeners, utilizing Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic essay, The Uncanny; I argue that uncanny feelings may be evoked when listeners encounter "alienated repetitions" during these lengthy finales. The study shall also aid the reader in locating these deceptive alterations in recurring themes and transitions; a complete map of the finale with indications of such subtle changes in the recurring sections shall help pianists who wish to maintain a clear sense of direction while performing these complex and lengthy finales, which are sometimes perceived as amorphous patchworks of short fragments endlessly repeated.

  • 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.

  • 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.