Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

Filter Dissertations By:

 
 
  • His Jelly Roll Soul: Revising and reclaiming the past, the minstrel mask, and the communal blast in Charles Mingus's Jazz Workshop AND Dream President: a pocket opera

    Author:
    Jennifer Griffith
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Taylor
    Abstract:

    Composer, bandleader, and bassist Charles Mingus was among the earliest modern jazz figures to dialogue with New Orleans-style jazz. His musical language included the idiom in a continuum of jazz, linking New Orleans collective improvisation to the avant-garde players of the 1960s. During the mid-century jazz wars between modernist and moldy fig, Mingus invoked the early era's heritage through Jelly Roll Morton in "My Jelly Roll Soul," (Atlantic, 1959), "Jelly Roll" (Columbia, 1959), and an arrangement of Morton's "Wolverine Blues" (Gennett, 1923). Mingus commented on contemporary attitudes toward his predecessors within an environment not well-disposed to them. Yet, even as the legacies of minstrelsy in the entertainment styles of Morton, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller shaped Mingus's performative identity, his unpublished writings and onstage manner reflect an alternative black male performativity. The testimony of Jazz Workshop members and Mingus's own statements reveal his philosophy and identity as leader and teacher, and emphasize a reverence for the collective spirit. In the intersection of compositional and improvisational techniques in mid-to late-1950s recordings ("Dizzy's Moods," "Jump Monk," and "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting"), this emphasis shows a progression from short sections of group interplay reminiscent of early jazz to improvisation within extended forms that invoke the ecstatic communal events he heard as a youth in the Holiness church. AND As a former U.S. President sits in a hotel room, watching TV and reflecting, three women--Red, White and Blue--visit him. They muse about the former president and explore their disillusionment around social change, their anxieties about the political climate and their dreams and fantasies about the president. The dream arias reflect benevolently on the President's personal charisma while the waking monologues take moral stock of his presidency.

  • The Piano Works of Pall Isolfsson (1893-1974) - A Diverse Collection

    Author:
    Nina Grimsdottir
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Peter Basquin
    Abstract:

    Abstract THE PIANO WORKS OF PÁLL ÍSÓLFSSON (1893-1974) A Diverse Collection by Nína Margrét Grímsdóttir Adviser: Professor Emeritus Peter Basquin The piano works of Páll Ísólfsson (1893-1974) form a diverse collection of twenty-six pieces that consists of nineteen character pieces, one set of variations, and six liturgical pieces. They were composed during 1920-1970, and now for the first time, the collection can, in this dissertation, be appreciated in its entirety. The important steps taken along the way have included publication, recordings, research and concert performances. The character pieces divide into four groups according to stylistic influence and maturity. Most of the earlier pieces fall into the "humorous burlesque" or "sentimental lyric" group; the other two groups belong to traditional dance genres, as well as works that express "Weltschmerz" through the tonal and harmonic language of late-nineteenth-century Romanticism. Ísólfsson's only large-scale work for piano, Tilbrigdi, consists of a theme and seventeen variations and is a virtuosic tour de force. The work, a tribute to the composer's father, is a comprehensive essay on variation techniques and is a fine addition to the catalogue of variation sets for piano solo. The six liturgical pieces which complete the Ísólfsson collection represent the composer's religious views and his thorough and admiring position towards the music of J. S. Bach. The premise of the dissertation is that the piano works are sophisticated compositions and that as a collection they form an ambitious and diverse repertoire that belongs to the piano literature of the northern European and Scandinavian countries. To support this, I evaluate Ísólfsson's collection in a larger perspective that entails comparing it with similar works by other composers; furthermore, information as to the style and standing of his piano works in his native country, Iceland, is presented with the aid of a questionnaire and a list of representative works by a selection of his contemporaries; finally, the collective reception history of Ísólfsson's piano works is discussed both in light of the anti-Romantic sentiment in Iceland's music circles around the middle of the twentieth century and subsequently with regard to published reviews about performances of the collection.

  • Franz Joseph Rosinack (1748-1823): A Bohemian Oboist and Music Arranger at the Fuerstenberg Court

    Author:
    Jan Homann
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Bruce MacIntyre
    Abstract:

    The oboist Franz Joseph Rosinack worked at the Fürstenberg princely court in Donaueschingen from 1777 to 1823. He had a range of duties, including performing with the Hof-orchester, Harmonie, and other ensembles, as well as supplying music for court occasions. Chapter I presents a survey of the court's musical activities and principal musicians under Princes Joseph Wenzel (r. 1762-83), Joseph Maria Benedict (r. 1783-96), Karl Joachim (1796-1804), and Karl Egon II (r. 1817-54). Fürstenberg ties to the major cultural centers of eighteenth-century Europe supplied repertoire allowing the court orchestra to perform some of the best contemporary operas often within months of their premieres. Rosinack's involvement in these and other performances gave him a familiarity with pieces he would then arrange as chamber music to accompany banquets, hunting parties, and other court festivities. Over fifty of Rosinack's arrangements are preserved as manuscripts in the Fürstenberg Musicalien Sammlung now housed in the Badische Landesbibliothek in Karlsruhe, Germany. Rosinack arranged music from across the broad spectrum of eighteenth-century genres, from chamber music and symphonies to operas and other works for the stage. Chapter III elucidates the techniques he used to create these works by examining excerpts from three representative pieces. These pieces include versions of Mozart's string quartet K. 575 and wind serenade K. 361, both for oboe, violin, two violas, and cello, as well as an arrangement of Haydn's opera Orlando Paladino for Harmonie octet. Generally, the further afield the genre of the original lay from its arranged form, the more far-reaching were the changes that Rosinack made to bring the music to its new setting. Arrangements of chamber music revolve mostly around issues of texture, tone color, and instrumental capacity. Arrangements of operas, however, can involve changes of form and harmonic structure to bring the music from its original stage genre to a chamber setting. Appendices present a complete list of Rosinack's arrangements as well as a score to the first movement of Rosinack's adaptation of K. 361 for oboe and strings.

  • The Village People: Analysis, Reception History, and Cultural Transformation

    Author:
    Paul Houghtaling
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Jonathan Pieslak
    Abstract:

    Abstract THE VILLAGE PEOPLE: ANALYSIS, RECEPTION HISTORY, AND CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION By Paul Houghtaling Advisor: Professor Mark Spicer The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the reception history of the four major songs of the 1970s disco group the Village People, namely "Macho Man," "Y.M.C.A.," "Go West," and "In the Navy," and their ironic transformation from gay-oriented pop pieces to iconic songs imbedded in American popular culture. I will trace "Y.M.C.A.," for example, from its beginnings as a camp entertainment targeted at the urban gay male audience at the height of the disco movement, through its transcendence to one of the most famous and, arguably, beloved pop songs of all time. This work will show how a tongue-in-check number parodying the sexual proclivities of gay men in the pre-AIDS era became a song regularly heard at major sporting arenas around the world while the work's original intent lay well beyond the "machismo" of the professional sporting arena. The irony is extraordinary, and, as I will show, the irony itself may be a part of the lasting appeal of the music of the Village People. Gay males in New York City were the initial target audience of the Village People's music, but they were not the consumers responsible for the music's ultimate popularity and commercial success. Still, certain of the tunes have since taken on strong cultural significance within the gay community at large. The meaning of the song "Go West," for example, was transformed by the AIDS epidemic; no ironic evolution here, but merely an adapted secondary meaning brought on by changes in the environment of gay male audiences for whom this music, as well as the disco era itself, began to hold nostalgic significance. The 1992 cover of "Go West" by the British band Pet Shop Boys, an almost reverent remake, stands as a testament to the historical significance of this song and others by the Village People in gay culture. Paradoxically, this "gay music" caught on furiously with the American disco-crazed populace, a majority of whom either did not understand its coding of parodied sexuality or chose to ignore it. The songs were intoxicating and their incredible success can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the cultural function of disco music, the marketing of the Village People, and the distinctive sound and look of the group. But above all, the songs remain extraordinarily popular today because of the music itself --the easy-to-memorize melodies, the verse-chorus structure, the hook appeal of the choruses, and the production and aural design of the records. In addition to tracing the reception history of these iconic songs, this dissertation offers a detailed analysis of the music and recordings themselves in an attempt to account for their lasting appeal.

  • Music and the Embodiment of Disability

    Author:
    Blake Howe
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    Recent studies of music as an art form fundamentally embodied (whether through the physicality of the performer or the perception of music as a physical object) have much to gain from a consideration of disability, which disrupts and disturbs assumptions of bodily normalcy. In considering music as a site of multiple embodiments, this dissertation offers possible incorporations of the emerging interdisciplinary field of Disability Studies into music scholarship and embodiment discourse. Four modular chapters treat this topic. (1) "Schubert, Mayrhofer, and the Dissolution of the Body." Schubert's final four settings of the poetry of Johann Mayrhofer revolve around a shared narrative: when ruptured by active centrifugal (outward-seeking) forces, bodily limitation may yield a desirable state of spiritual transcendence. This philosophy treats the body as a disabled limitation that must be "heroically overcome"--an idea that may have had personal resonance for Mayrhofer, who had been recently diagnosed with disorders associated with excessive interiority. (2) "Music and the Agents of Obsession." Since the late eighteenth century, obsession has typically been theorized as the product of two dueling agencies--the rational, mobile agent, and the fixed, obsessive agent. The eighteenth-century doctor Andrew Harper published a treatise that includes a description of obsession in this vein, filled with intriguing musical metaphors: the mental faculty is "fixed" on a "predominant note" that "brings every image or modulation into unison with itself," so that "the order and harmony of mental operation is destroyed, and discord or insanity ensues." Harper's imagined battle of tones is prescient of a "fixed note" device found in a number of compositions depicting obsessive behaviors, including works by Alkan, Britten, Brunetti, Chopin, Cornelius, Vaughan Williams, and Wolf. (3) "Beauty, Ugliness, and the Challenge of Synthesis in Schreker's Die Gezeichneten." Schreker's Die Gezeichnten (1916), written as a "tragedy of an ugly man," positions beauty and ugliness as oppositional poles in need of synthesis and reconciliation; dramatic tension stems from the difficulty of empathizing with the physically disfigured Other. The process of empathy is dramatized in the opera's aesthetic and moral climax, in which a beautiful character (Carlotta) decides to paint a portrait of, and thereby empathize with, the ugly character (the hunchback Alviano). (4) "Paul Wittgenstein and the Performance of Disability." A pianist whose right arm was amputated in World War I, Paul Wittgenstein spent much of his career developing strategies for one-hand piano performance. Relevant models of disability narratives include notions of "passing" (one-hand piano music written in the style of two-hand piano music); "cure" (Friedrich Wührer's controversial two-hand arrangements of Schmidt's one-hand compositions for Wittgenstein); and "heroic overcoming" (in which virtuosity is compensation for corporeal deficiency, a narrative that also has implications for an ethics of able-bodied performance).

  • Music and the Embodiment of Disability

    Author:
    Blake Howe
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    Recent studies of music as an art form fundamentally embodied (whether through the physicality of the performer or the perception of music as a physical object) have much to gain from a consideration of disability, which disrupts and disturbs assumptions of bodily normalcy. In considering music as a site of multiple embodiments, this dissertation offers possible incorporations of the emerging interdisciplinary field of Disability Studies into music scholarship and embodiment discourse. Four modular chapters treat this topic. (1) "Schubert, Mayrhofer, and the Dissolution of the Body." Schubert's final four settings of the poetry of Johann Mayrhofer revolve around a shared narrative: when ruptured by active centrifugal (outward-seeking) forces, bodily limitation may yield a desirable state of spiritual transcendence. This philosophy treats the body as a disabled limitation that must be "heroically overcome"--an idea that may have had personal resonance for Mayrhofer, who had been recently diagnosed with disorders associated with excessive interiority. (2) "Music and the Agents of Obsession." Since the late eighteenth century, obsession has typically been theorized as the product of two dueling agencies--the rational, mobile agent, and the fixed, obsessive agent. The eighteenth-century doctor Andrew Harper published a treatise that includes a description of obsession in this vein, filled with intriguing musical metaphors: the mental faculty is "fixed" on a "predominant note" that "brings every image or modulation into unison with itself," so that "the order and harmony of mental operation is destroyed, and discord or insanity ensues." Harper's imagined battle of tones is prescient of a "fixed note" device found in a number of compositions depicting obsessive behaviors, including works by Alkan, Britten, Brunetti, Chopin, Cornelius, Vaughan Williams, and Wolf. (3) "Beauty, Ugliness, and the Challenge of Synthesis in Schreker's Die Gezeichneten." Schreker's Die Gezeichnten (1916), written as a "tragedy of an ugly man," positions beauty and ugliness as oppositional poles in need of synthesis and reconciliation; dramatic tension stems from the difficulty of empathizing with the physically disfigured Other. The process of empathy is dramatized in the opera's aesthetic and moral climax, in which a beautiful character (Carlotta) decides to paint a portrait of, and thereby empathize with, the ugly character (the hunchback Alviano). (4) "Paul Wittgenstein and the Performance of Disability." A pianist whose right arm was amputated in World War I, Paul Wittgenstein spent much of his career developing strategies for one-hand piano performance. Relevant models of disability narratives include notions of "passing" (one-hand piano music written in the style of two-hand piano music); "cure" (Friedrich Wührer's controversial two-hand arrangements of Schmidt's one-hand compositions for Wittgenstein); and "heroic overcoming" (in which virtuosity is compensation for corporeal deficiency, a narrative that also has implications for an ethics of able-bodied performance).

  • Formal Processes in Post-Tonal Music: A Study of Selected Works by Babbitt, Stockhausen, and Carter

    Author:
    Patricia Howland
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    Most previous studies of musical form have focused on tonal music. Little attention has been given to formal organization in post-tonal music, especially the challenging, systematic repertoire of the postwar period. Many of these works avoid the traditional rhetoric of form, and for this reason they have seemed unapproachable from the standpoint of phrases and larger formal structures. This study seeks to demonstrate that, despite its apparently resistant nature, this music can be meaningfully heard in terms of perceptible formal design. In the absence of well-established harmonic and melodic processes, formal structures in post-tonal music are created by parametric processes, that is, shapes and patterns that occur in what were previously considered secondary parameters, such as dynamics, register, density, and texture. Similarities and changes within these parameters, singly and in combination, produce audible formal units such as small segments, phrases, and phrase groups. Phrases are formed by the combination of segments, and phrases themselves combine to form larger structures. At all levels, these combinations take place as a result of parametric relations and processes. This study defines a "phrase" in post-tonal music as a formal unit exhibiting initiation, coherence, and completeness. Aspects of these three features, especially coherence and completeness, are developed and illustrated in detailed musical analyses. The works examined include Babbitt's Composition for Four Instruments (1948), the opening clarinet solo; Stockhausen's Kontra-Punkte for ten instruments (1953), the first 116 measures; and Carter's String Quartet No. 2 (1959), the Introduction and the first movement, Allegro fantastico. The study finds five general phrase types based on methods for creating coherence, and demonstrates that the particular type of coherence gives rise to one of three general means of ending the phrase so as to achieve a sense of wholeness or completeness. Throughout the study, an emphasis is maintained on the listener's perspective and the perceptibility of these formal elements.

  • Form in Frank Bridge's Three Phantasies

    Author:
    Vera Hui-pin Hsu
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Norman Carey
    Abstract:

    From 1905 to the mid-1930s, British music (chamber music in particular) enjoyed the enlightened patronage of Walter Willson Cobbett (1847-1937), who supported and sponsored competitions for short, one-movement, chamber works titled "phantasy." There are opposing views as to what forms these phantasies exemplify. On the one hand, Charles Villiers Stanford and J.A. Fuller-Maitland claimed that these twentieth-century phantasies exemplify one specific form, although their descriptions of that form are not completely compatible with each other. On the other hand, Ernest Walker and David Maw have argued that modern British phantasies display a variety of forms. This dissertation examines the forms of the three phantasies composed by Frank Bridge (1879-1941): the Phantasie String Quartet (1905), the award-winning Phantasie Piano Trio (1907), and the Phantasy Piano Quartet (1910). Bridge, who taught Benjamin Britten, is unarguably one of the most important composers of modern British phantasies. I argue here that Bridge applies three different formal models in his three phantasies: the Phantasy String Quartet is a super-sonata in which the first and third parts constitute a mirror-form sonata, while the second part is ternary; the Phantasie Piano Trio is subject to two equally valid readings: a two-dimensional sonata form and an ABCBA arch form; and the Phantasy Piano Quartet is an ABCBA arch. My findings thus lend credence to those such as Walker and Maw who deny that there is a single formal type for the British phantasy. Nevertheless, although Bridge's three phantasies differ in form, they each exhibit the use of arch-like structures. The evolution of form in Bridge's three phantasies suggests that the symmetry of the arch became more useful to him compositionally than conventional sonata or rondo forms. The preference for symmetrical design continues into Bridge's later works.

  • Madness, Sexuality, and Gender in Early Twentieth Century Music Theater Works: Four Interpretive Essays

    Author:
    Megan Jenkins
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    Diagnoses of madness are inextricably entwined with social and cultural beliefs about gender and sexual behavior. The portrayal of characters in music theater as mad relies on contemporaneous understanding of mental illness, as often resulting from, or expressed in transgression of normative gender roles or heteronormativity, and this may apply either to male or female characters. Such transgressions are explored--with regard to recent reconceptualizations of madness within Disability Studies--in four works: Arnold Schoenberg's monodrama Erwartung (1924); Richard Strauss's opera Salome (1905); Kurt Weill's ballet chanté, Anna-Anna (1933), also known as The Seven Deadly Sins; and Igor Stravinsky's neo-classical opera, The Rake's Progress (1951). Like Lucia di Lammermoor, the nineteenth-century opera with the best-known mad scene, Erwartung features a female lead character overwrought by emotion and driven to extreme behavior. Unlike Lucia, however, Die Frau--the main character in Erwartung--was created at a time when Freudian theory was spreading widely and permeating the consciousness of both its creators and its audiences, thus lending Erwartung wider interpretive possibilities. As the title character of Richard Strauss's 1905 opera, Salome is often regarded as the opera's source of pathological desire and mental disease; however, Herod also displays traits of madness, and these traits can be interpreted through the lens of gender studies as being essentially feminine. Anna-Anna, the protagonist of Weill's ballet chanté embodies, in this reading, the Freudian concepts of schizophrenia, homosexuality, and narcissism, which Freud regarded as being inextricably entwined with one another. Baba the Turk is an essential character in The Rake's Progress because she suggests and embodies a spectral homosexual presence in the opera. She "queers" Tom Rakewell, thus highlighting his madness as the result not only of a bad bet with Nick Shadow, but also of his inability to live up to the expectations of manhood in post-World War II America.

  • Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine: An Analytical Study of the Music of the Doors

    Author:
    David Johnson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Mark Spicer
    Abstract:

    The Los Angeles-based band the Doors remains iconic in rock music history and is synonymous with 1960s counterculture. Through their cultivation of a dark self-image and idiom, the band expressed, reflected, and artistically commented on the turmoil and social upheaval of late-1960s America. The Doors influenced the country's socio-cultural nexus for many reasons: their serious and often sober artistic intent, singular and pioneering styles of music, poetic ambition, theatrical inclination, countercultural affiliation, and psychedelic drug associations. This is the first dissertation to focus specifically on the Doors' music, utilizing musicological and analytical tools to explore its modus operandi and its enduring appeal. This study attempts to establish a paradigm with which to read and parse the band's style and musical meaning. Rather than taking a chronological or encyclopedic approach, I examine their output via a taxonomy I have developed based on interlinked musical and thematic qualities: songs derived from existing musical forms, those delineated by subject matter, and epic song formats. Thus, I concentrate on a representative spectrum of songs-- including many lesser-known compositions that have not been addressed to date--which aptly displays the group's ethos and musical imagination. Moreover, this study is unique because I frequently consult live recordings that were captured during the Doors' extensive tours but released years later. These recordings and my analyses of them speak to the exceptional importance of the bands' live concerts, where theatrical and improvisational forays were plumbed, and which had a tremendous impact on bands in the Doors' wake. These inclusions, taken together with the landmark hits, fill out the Doors' portrait and serve to further underscore their musical innovations as well as the boundaries they transgressed. Finally, in contradistinction to the sociological and cultural studies approaches that have prevailed, which address Morrison and the Doors primarily as signifiers of the late 1960s per se, my considerations of cultural factors and context are tethered to the Doors' actual musical, lyric, and performative production, and as such they examine the complex ways these intersected with their audience and with the larger public sphere.