Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

Filter Dissertations By:

 
 
  • The Music and Multiple Identities of Kurdish Alevis from Turkey in Germany

    Author:
    Ozan Aksoy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Stephen Blum
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the experiences of Kurdish Alevis, currently living in Germany, who trace their background to locations within the boundaries of the Republic of Turkey. I argue that music has been a particularly important mode through which Kurdish Alevis in Germany have articulated collective histories and have fashioned narratives of belonging and multiple and sometimes contradictory identities. The subjects of my research are immigrants and refugees who are ethnically Kurdish and whose religion is Alevi, an Anatolian religion whose relations to both Sunni and Shi'a Islam are historically controversial. They speak Turkish along with Kurdish, in most cases are Turkish and German citizens living in and around Cologne, Germany, and have family members in Istanbul, Turkey. Kurdish Alevis struggled against being labeled with certain identities, such as Turkish and Muslim within the larger immigrant pool from Turkey. At the same time, many of them have striven for their collective identities, namely Kurdish and Alevi, primarily in the last two decades. Music has been an integral part of their efforts. I argue that, in the last two decades, a new transnational field has emerged for Kurdish Alevi immigrants and refugees in Germany and by extension in Turkey, opening spaces for realignment around various and fluctuating loyalties with respect to ethnic, political, and social modes of belonging. This work is an investigation of the music of this ethno-religious double minority group in their second and third homelands.

  • Images of Chopin in the New World: Performances of Chopin's Music in New York City, 1839-1876

    Author:
    Francisco Albo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    John Graziano
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the reception history of the music of Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849) in the city of New York from the first documented performance of his works, in 1839, until 1876, the year of the historic American tour of Hans von Bülow (1830-1894). The dynamics of those responses correspond with the growth of New York, which, during that time, experienced a dramatic transformation from a provincial city into a vibrant cultural metropolis. In addition, I aim to explore the evolution of musical aesthetics and taste within a larger scope that includes social, political, and cultural issues. That evolution is illustrated by the ways the music of Chopin was performed, disseminated, and criticized demonstrating the presence of points of intersection with other important artistic centers in Europe. My broader goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of the musical life of the city in the thirty-seven years covered in this study. A meticulous work of documentation of hundreds of performances provides a valuable tool for scholars who wish to keep exploring that fascinating period in New York history, and the circumstances that paved the way for the future conditions of the musical life in the city and in the nation.

  • Arab Music Vocabulary in Syrian Contemporary Clarinet Chamber Works

    Author:
    Kinan Azmeh
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    David Olan
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines three chamber music pieces by contemporary Syrian composers that use the clarinet, looking for different elements drawn from traditional Arab music and how they are used in a western contemporary context. The three works studied in this dissertation are: Qunitet by Shafi Badreddine (b.1972), Buhur by Kareem Roustom (b. 1971), and Quintet for the Damascus Festival by Dia Succari,(1938-2010). From analysis of these works and from conversations I had with the composers, these central topics emerged: 1) how they use the muwashshah as a source of inspiration and 2) how they use maqam. Using the muwashshah as a departure point, Roustom uses poetry meters in the entire piece, Badreddine only uses its general form and titles, while Succari based a number of his compositions on the main theme of a famous muwashshah. While Roustom and Succari approach the maqams in a way that is somewhat less unconventional, Badreddine subjects them to a microscopic treatment that focuses on the qualities of a specific interval (or intervals) in a given maqam. A central aim of this dissertation is to study how knowledge of Arab music affects the overall performance of these works, and to question whether these works challenge the performer differently from other western classical music works. Through this research it became clear that such challenges do exist, and that a comprehensive performance of any musical work can only be achieved if work is put into learning the fine nuances specific to the culture from which the composer drew inspiration.

  • Composing with circles, spirals, and lines of fifths: Harmony and voice leading in the music of Nicolai Roslavets

    Author:
    Inessa Bazayev
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    This dissertation proposes a new theoretical framework for the analysis of works of an important early twentieth-century Soviet composer Nicolai Roslavets. Roslavets was one of the few composers from his generation to develop his own unique compositional style. Although he welcomed the Russian revolution of 1917 and later held important political, professional, and social positions in Soviet society, in the 1930s he fell a victim to Stalinist cultural campaigns to eliminate all radical activity from Soviet art. Consequently, Roslavets lost his high positions in Soviet society and his name was erased from history books. It was not until the early 1980s that efforts were made both in Russia and the West to revive his name and analyze his music. Roslavets developed his own theory of pitch organization called the "New System of Tone Organization," in which he identified the synthetic chord as the driving element of each of his compositions. A synthetic chord is described as having three features: (1) it is a group of notes, usually arranged as a scale-like succession of pitches with a fixed progression of tones and semitones; (2) it is used both vertically and horizontally; and (3) it is used to define the total harmonic plan of the composition. Many theorists including Yury Kholopov, George Perle, and Anna Ferenc recognized that each of Roslavets's pieces is characterized by a contextual synthetic chord that travels through different transpositional levels; however, no theory explains the underlying symmetrical pattern through which the synthetic chord travels, causing its unique spellings. The current dissertation addresses Roslavets's unorthodox orthography, which features such peculiarities as triple sharps, and explains the structural importance of perfect fifths. Plotting the synthetic chords on different spaces of fifths--the circle, spiral, and line--reveals the underlying synthetic chord-path that can be characterized by my three types of symmetries: crisp symmetry, near-symmetry, and nested-crisp symmetry. I use pieces from 1913 through 1926--Nocturne-Quintet (1914), Sonata No. 1 for Viola and Piano (1926), Trois Compositions (1914), Trois Etudes (1914), and Cinq Préludes (1919-1922)--to show that Roslavets uses the deeper structure of fifths relations to create a novel musical language with distinct orthography and symmetrical chord-paths making him one of the most intriguing and innovative composers of his generation.

  • Composing with circles, spirals, and lines of fifths: Harmony and voice leading in the music of Nicolai Roslavets

    Author:
    Inessa Bazayev
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    This dissertation proposes a new theoretical framework for the analysis of works of an important early twentieth-century Soviet composer Nicolai Roslavets. Roslavets was one of the few composers from his generation to develop his own unique compositional style. Although he welcomed the Russian revolution of 1917 and later held important political, professional, and social positions in Soviet society, in the 1930s he fell a victim to Stalinist cultural campaigns to eliminate all radical activity from Soviet art. Consequently, Roslavets lost his high positions in Soviet society and his name was erased from history books. It was not until the early 1980s that efforts were made both in Russia and the West to revive his name and analyze his music. Roslavets developed his own theory of pitch organization called the "New System of Tone Organization," in which he identified the synthetic chord as the driving element of each of his compositions. A synthetic chord is described as having three features: (1) it is a group of notes, usually arranged as a scale-like succession of pitches with a fixed progression of tones and semitones; (2) it is used both vertically and horizontally; and (3) it is used to define the total harmonic plan of the composition. Many theorists including Yury Kholopov, George Perle, and Anna Ferenc recognized that each of Roslavets's pieces is characterized by a contextual synthetic chord that travels through different transpositional levels; however, no theory explains the underlying symmetrical pattern through which the synthetic chord travels, causing its unique spellings. The current dissertation addresses Roslavets's unorthodox orthography, which features such peculiarities as triple sharps, and explains the structural importance of perfect fifths. Plotting the synthetic chords on different spaces of fifths--the circle, spiral, and line--reveals the underlying synthetic chord-path that can be characterized by my three types of symmetries: crisp symmetry, near-symmetry, and nested-crisp symmetry. I use pieces from 1913 through 1926--Nocturne-Quintet (1914), Sonata No. 1 for Viola and Piano (1926), Trois Compositions (1914), Trois Etudes (1914), and Cinq Préludes (1919-1922)--to show that Roslavets uses the deeper structure of fifths relations to create a novel musical language with distinct orthography and symmetrical chord-paths making him one of the most intriguing and innovative composers of his generation.

  • Two Sides to a Drum: Duality in Trinidad Orisha Music and Culture

    Author:
    Ryan Bazinet
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Peter Manuel
    Abstract:

    This dissertation presents an ethnographic and historical study of music and culture in the Yoruba-derived Trinidad Orisha religion in Trinidad and New York City. Its objectives are: (1) to provide description and documentation of Trinidad Orisha music, an understudied music genre in the African diaspora; (2) to shed light on the historical, cultural, and demographic factors contributing to the development of Trinidad Orisha music by its practitioners; and (3) to provide substance for meaningful comparisons between Trinidad Orisha music and other Yoruba-derived musics. Based on four years of fieldwork (2008-2012) in Trinidad and in Brooklyn, NY, the study explores Trinidad Orisha as a neo-African musical and religious practice at a crossroads of often oppositional transnational and postcolonial forces. The history of the religion includes criminalization, ridicule, and recent valorization as part of a middle class revival, and is emblematic of larger social and political transformations that have occurred since Trinidad's independence and the development of New York as an essential locale within the Trinidadian diaspora. The analysis is based on data gathered from field recordings of Trinidad Orisha ceremonies; formal interviews and informal conversations with Trinidad Orisha musicians, priests and others; and the author's own observations made while drumming during Trinidad Orisha rituals, including subjective insights into his experiences of the music, as both performer and listener. Musical performance is the main context for the practice of the Trinidad Orisha religion, and so the dissertation privileges music, and the experiences of musicians, as a central means of understanding the religion's history and present. The thesis of the dissertation invokes the physicality of a Trinidad Orisha drum - double-sided and thus approachable from more than one angle - as a metaphor for a basic duality in a complex cultural practice that is simultaneously Yoruba and Trinidadian. The conception of duality in Trinidad Orisha music and culture also refers to the push and pull between preservation and innovation; marginalization and revivalism; diaspora and homeland. The dialogue between these various forces is at the heart of understanding Trinidad Orisha music and its contextualization among musics of the African diaspora.

  • Cyclic Pitch Organization in the Twelve-Tone Works of Aaron Copland

    Author:
    Lisa Behrens
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    Abstract CYCLIC PITCH ORGANIZATION IN THE TWELVE-TONE WORKS OF AARON COPLAND by Lisa S. Behrens Advisor: Joseph Straus Late in his career, Aaron Copland composed four twelve-tone works; the Quartet for Piano and Strings (1950), the Piano Fantasy (1957), ConnotationsInscape (1967). Rather than constituting a sudden conversion to serial composition, Copland's mature twelve-tone works constitute a revival of serial procedures that antedates and pervades his American works of the 1930s and 40s. Consequently, in this dissertation I will assert a stylistic continuity that informs the mature twelve-tone works, which also distinguishes Copland's tonal idiom. This continuity contradicts the distinction between Copland's "severe" and "simple," or "highbrow" and "lowbrow" styles, which has been previously promoted in the literature. Accordingly, I will show that Copland adapted twelve-tone principles to his already well-established idiom, transferring salient features of the harmonic language in his American works to a serial platform. As a result, all of the mature twelve-tone works employ cyclic row classes that are based on whole-tone relationships. The cyclic properties of those row classes generate a plethora of symmetrical constructs that recreate the distinctive fourth-and-fifth-harmonies that are typical of Copland's tonal harmonic language. There are four additional compositional principles that determine the organization of pitch: segmental invariance, whole-tone complementation, cyclic formal articulation, and a generalized collectional interaction between pentatonic, octatonic, and hexatonic sets.

  • Performed Identities: Theorizing in New York's Improvised Music Scene

    Author:
    Daniel Blake
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Stephen Blum
    Abstract:

    This research looks at the diverse approaches to musical practice in New York City's improvised music scene. Using the ideas of improvisers living and working in New York, a central aim of this study is to explore the development of a musician's music theory as personal and implicit. Theory is defined here as a subjective and internalized body of knowledge informing the particular choices an individual improviser makes in real time, given an aesthetic landscape consisting of many other theories. The eighteen interviewees were each asked a series of questions pertaining to their experience as contemporary improvisers. From analysis of these interviews, three central topics emerged, which form the basis for the chapters of the dissertation. First, theory is an expression of an individual's identity, and that identity is performed in the act of improvisation. Second, there is a causal link between one's theory and one's musical practice, and this link is often expressed through "extra-musical" metaphors pertaining to the body. Third, the project holds that improvisation is an ethical act, the working out of musical and structural processes in real time, requiring a negotiation between the implicit theories of individual players whose aesthetic beliefs may be quite different from one another.

  • Mobile Phones, Group Improvisation, and Music: Trends in Digital Socialized Music-Making

    Author:
    Nathan Bowen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Douglas Geers
    Abstract:

    With the advent of the smartphone, the mobile phone has recently emerged as a popular choice for instrument designers. Mobile phones are computationally powerful, feature a rich suite of onboard sensors, have ever-increasing networking capabilities, are becoming easier to program, and are above all ubiquitous. Because of these factors and a solid marketplace for dissemination, designers have authored hundreds of musical instrument apps, steadily reaching public consciousness. As ubiquitous, handheld, networked instruments, mobile phones have properties that distinguish themselves from other digital musical instruments, and are uniquely positioned to have widespread cultural impact on how people make and share music. Still, the flexibility of configuration and lack of standardization makes it difficult to define what it means to `play' a mobile phone. In the first three chapters I attempt to locate mobile phone music in the broader historical context of electronic music, networked music, and the considerations of digital musical instrument design. Though the nascent field of mobile music-making is still emerging, the rapid evolution of devices, software, instrumental and cultural practices associated with this trend are in need of visibility and documentation. As such, I will trace the history of mobile phone music as it has evolved from a ringtone-based art form to the smartphone era. My goal is to highlight various creative uses of mobile phones in musical contexts, including audience participation, locative art, mobile phone ensembles, and efforts to help everyday people feel empowered to express themselves through musical creation. I will also explore whether this ideal of democratizing musicianship has downsides, and how it impacts authorship and virtuosity. The last two chapters cover my own contribution to mobile music, including the presentation of 4Quarters, a software-plus-controller musical instrument for mobile phones and computer. As it is designed to be fundamentally collaborative and encourage improvisation, I will document its reception by test users and participants. 4Quarters is available as supplemental material to this written dissertation.

  • Worthy of the Light: Feminine Heroism in Die Zauberflöte

    Author:
    Patrice Boyd
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Barbara Russano Hanning
    Abstract:

    "Worthy of the Light: Feminine Heroism in Die Zauberflöte" posits that the opera represents the apotheosis of a heroism depicted by Mozart in the female protagonists of his mature works (Konstanze and Blondchen in Die Entführung, the Countess and Susanna in Figaro, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni), with the possible exception of Così fan tutte (and arguably, in Fiordiligi, even there). This heroism encompasses moral and physical courage within the context of Christian theology, Masonic ideals, and Enlightenment philosophy (exemplified by the English philosophers and the American Revolution, rather than the French enlightenment of Voltaire and Rousseau). My premise challenges the prevailing view that Zauberflöte is misogynistic in its depiction of women. Mozart sought in Die Zauberflöte to portray a proactive, feminine heroism comprising emotional intuition, intelligence, integrity, and physical pluck. The heroine Pamina braves death, yet triumphs in life rather than in martyrdom. In her, Mozart depicts a woman who rescues herself and the man she loves while remaining honest and true to her principles (unlike some of his previous female characters, who employ deception to achieve noble ends). Konstanze is Pamina's closest operatic predecessor and a proxy for Mozart's bride Constanze Weber, whom he married following Entführung's premiere in 1782. Constanze served as his business manager in his final years, making heroic efforts to `rescue' him from financial difficulties (efforts judged by numerous critics to have been on the right track, had they not been cut short by Mozart's untimely death). The deepening of the Mozarts' love in the decade between Entführung and Zauberflöte is manifest in Pamina, whose music resembles Konstanze's and could have been sung by the real Constanze. The Queen of the Night, Pamina's mother, has been perceived as a witch for two centuries, but evidence suggests that Mozart and his librettist, Schikaneder, intended to portray her quite favorably and changed their approach for political reasons - creating a jarring shift between Acts I and II. Yet Mozart, through vocal writing for the Queen that is also strikingly similar to Konstanze's, uses musical `code' to portray her as worthy of our sympathy - and perhaps even a feminine hero.