Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • "A Kind of Construction in Light and Shade": An Analytical Dialogue with Recording Studio Aesthetics in Two Songs by Led Zeppelin

    Author:
    Aaron Liu-Rosenbaum
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Shaugn O'Donnell
    Abstract:

    “A Kind of Construction in Light and Shade”: An Analytical Dialogue with Recording Studio Aesthetics in Two Songs by Led Zeppelin by Aaron Liu-Rosenbaum This dissertation examines how the sound of a recording contributes meaning to the song, working in conjunction with the song`s lyrics, harmonic and rhythmic structures, album artwork, and within its cultural context. Two songs by the rock group Led Zeppelin, “When the Levee Breaks” and “Stairway to Heaven,” are taken as analytical examples in which special attention is paid to the acoustic properties of the recordings, that is, where the instruments are situated within the stereo sound field; how they are timbrally manipulated with effects such as reverb, echo, distortion, and chorus; their relative levels of prominence; and how these factors interact to create meaning in the song. The intent is to bring into relief the complex and myriad ways that recording studio aesthetics shape both our perception of, and appreciation for, two of the most prominent songs in this group`s rich repertoire. By considering the recorded sound among the other factors that comprise these analyses, I also seek to demonstrate the value of parameters other than pitch and rhythm in analyses of this repertoire in particular. This project requires extremely close listening to the recordings in order to discern how various studio effects are employed in the context of each song`s particular aesthetics. I take as my methodological departure point Albin Zak`s book, The Poetics of Rock, in which are found analyses of studio production techniques in various rock songs, and Susan Fast`s book, In the Houses of the Holy, in which many facets of Led Zeppelin`s music are examined, including semiotics and the relationship between timbre and text.

  • ROTATIONAL FORM AND SONATA-TYPE HYBRIDITY IN THE FIRST MOVEMENT OF SHOSTAKOVICH'S FOURTH SYMPHONY

    Author:
    Charity Lofthouse
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    L. Poundie Burstein
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines Dmitri Shostakovich's sonata-form movements--often framed as "sonata arch" or "reverse recapitulation" structures, wherein the primary- and secondary-zone themes return in reverse order after the development--through the lens of rotation. Using methodology from Hepokoski and Darcy's Elements of Sonata Theory (2006), I explore concepts of rotation in Symphony No. 4's opening movement and its interaction with a larger effect of boundary blurring and typological hybridity, manifest as a blending of double- and triple-rotational sonata-form types. This blurring effect is heightened by use of nontonal boundary sonorities at moments of expected tonal closure. I begin by outlining double- and triple-rotational sonata structures--layouts corresponding to Hepokoski and Darcy's Type-2 and Type-3 sonata forms respectively. Analyses from the initial movements of Shostakovich's First and Fifth Symphonies, as well as contemporary initial movements by Sibelius and Shebalin, illustrate Shostakovich's techniques of evoking triple-rotational elements within a double-rotational construction. By featuring both primary- and secondary-theme elements at the moment of post-development tonic return, Shostakovich simultaneously elicits expectations of both sonata types, thus creating a kind of sonata-type hybrid while underscoring ordered rotational structures. In-depth examination of Symphony No. 4's first movement explores moments of formal demarcation--including the MC, EEC, and ESC--as illustrating Shostakovich's combination of double- and triple-rotational constructions at formal boundaries, and his postponing of tonal cadential closure in favor of non-tonal boundary sonorities. These post-tonal events correspond to formal boundaries, displacing tonal closure until the movement's coda while forming transpositional and rhetorical correspondences across the movement analogous to tonal boundaries markers. This movement's relationship with Mahler's First Symphony--apparent in various thematic quotations--is broadened to include thematic, formal, and rotational elements, further highlighting Symphony No. 4's rotational patterns and structural correspondences. Sonata Theory's emphasis on thematic rotations presents a new way of understanding Shostakovich's blurring of sonata-form boundaries. In turn, Symphony No. 4 provides a fruitful landscape in which to examine the interplay between rotational, rhetorical, and tonal aspects of Sonata Theory and their application to polystylistic repertoire.

  • The Music of Charles Mingus: Compositional Approach, Style, and the Performance of Race and Politics in the "Free Land of Slavery"

    Author:
    Eduardo López-Dabdoub
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Taylor
    Abstract:

    As a composer, bassist, and bandleader, Charles Mingus (1922-1979) is widely regarded as one of the most influential and innovate figures in American music. Most existing scholarship on Mingus has focused on his biography and his socio-cultural milieu, yet very little offers any in-depth analysis of his music. This dissertation examines selected works by Mingus, providing detailed musical analyses and transcriptions while also considering the context in which the works were composed, with emphasis on the various cultural, political, and social issues that had strong ramifications on his compositions and performances. The project is divided into three chapters. Chapter 1 examines Mingus's complicated relationship with the jazz avant-garde and focuses on his composition "Folk Forms, No. 1" (1960), which demonstrates the various ways in which Mingus anticipated, was influenced by, and rejected prevailing avant-garde aesthetics. Chapter 2 traces the transformation of "Fables of Faubus" (1957) from its first recording in 1959 to the performances that surrounded Mingus's European tour in 1964, and examines how Mingus's significant revisions to the piece reflect the increasing tensions and discords of the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, Chapter 3 delves into the complexity of Mingus's racial identity and his performances of black masculinity, and shows how these issues unfold in four compositions: "Eclipse" (1953), "Devil Woman" (1961), "Ecclusiastics" (1961), and "Sue's Changes" (1974).

  • Beyond Modernism's Edge: Johanna Beyer's String Quartet No. 2 (1936) and Vivian Fine's The Race of Life (1937)

    Author:
    Rachel Lumsden
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    Although a number of women were active as composers in New York during the Great Depression, their efforts have typically been neglected in favor of those of their male colleagues. Over the last two decades, scholars have begun to examine the small oeuvre of Ruth Crawford Seeger in greater depth, but aside from a few well-known publications much of this work has not been analytically oriented; in addition, scholarship on Crawford has tended to overshadow studies of the great variety of music by other modernist women composers. This dissertation addresses these lacunae in several different ways. First, I provide in-depth discussions of compositions by Johanna Magdalena Beyer (1888-1944) and Vivian Fine (1913-2000), whose music from this era has not previously received extensive analytic attention. These close readings are strongly informed by feminist theory, as I explore how contextual issues (such as biography, contemporaneous attitudes towards women, and the "problem" of being a woman composer in the 1930s) might enliven and enrich our understanding of these women's works. After the introduction (Chapter 1), Chapter 2 contains a biographical sketch of Johanna Beyer. Chapter 3 discusses the complicated ways that borrowing and gender intersect in Beyer's String Quartet No. 2 (1936), a work in which Beyer's dissonant setting of a Mozart aria about marriage provides an opportunity to both emulate--and subvert--"ultramodern" and common-practice stylistic principles and traditional conceptions of womanhood. Chapters 4 and 5 examine a collaborative work by Doris Humphrey and Vivian Fine, entitled The Race of Life. Loosely based on a series of drawings by James Thurber, this piece is significant not only because it was Fine's first major composition for modern dance (a genre for which she composed extensively in the late 1930s), but also because it provides a glimpse into some of the strategic ways that women used humor in the performing arts during this era, a topic that has received minimal scholarly attention. Chapter 6 offers final thoughts and outlines several different directions for future research.

  • Western Genres in Japan: The Evolution of Styles in Children's Songs, Hip-Hop, and Other Genres

    Author:
    Noriko Manabe
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Peter Manuel
    Abstract:

    This dissertation outlines the issues involved in adapting a foreign genre in Japan, with examples drawn from children's songs, rock, hip-hop, and reggae/dancehall, followed by detailed case studies of children's songs and hip-hop DJs. The popularization of genres reveals much of the Japanese self-image vis-à-vis other cultures, as many aspects of a foreign culture are absorbed in addition to music. Typically, the musical style of an imported genre evolves over time from translated songs, to songs that stick closely to the foreign style, to a more original style that may reflect traditional Japanese aesthetics, incorporate Japanese scales or instruments, or display an eclectic mix of influences. The Japanese language also presents challenges and opportunities for creativity, as its lack of stress accents, existence of pitch accents, multi-moraic vocabulary, and gender/class differentials render it distinct from some Western European languages. The evolution of children's songs (shoka and doyo) from 1877 to 1947 is discussed, showing their transformation from gagaku-based hoiku shoka, to awkward translations of Scottish folk songs, to syncretic art songs with sophisticated text-setting techniques and the incorporation of Japanese melodies within a Western form. The impact of the political atmosphere and educational policy on musical style and textual content is addressed. Treatises on songwriting by composers Yamada Kosaku, Motoori Nagayo, Komatsu Kosuke, and Kawamura Naonori, are analyzed, particularly as they relate to pitch accents, phrase structure, and harmonization. The final chapter discusses hip-hop DJs and producers, explaining their creative process, integration of traditional Japanese music and aesthetics, and experiences in the DMC World Championships, through interviews with DJs and producers Krush, Kentaro, Evis Beats, Shing02, Ono, Co-ma, and Izoh. The dissertation contributes to the discourse on Japanese popular music by providing comparisons across different genres of the process of musical globalization and the evolution of distinct styles. Most studies on Japanese popular music to date have focused on one genre. Through musical analyses, the dissertation shows the development of Japanese songwriting technique in Western idioms and its continuities with traditional text setting. Finally, it examines the musicality of Japanese DJs and their contribution to the global music scene.

  • Emerging Musical Structures: A method for the transcription and analysis of Electroacoustic Music

    Author:
    Mario Mazzoli
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    This dissertation proposes a method for transcribing "electroacoustic" music, and subsequently a number of methods for its analysis, utilizing the transcription as main ground for investigation. The core of the investigation is on pieces that seem particularly resistant to traditional musical analysis, as they present at least three crucial differences with respect to the "standard" repertoire: they utilize (completely or in part) non-pitched sounds, they focus on timbre avoiding traditional strategies of pitch and rhythm organization, and they are not traditionally notated. Pieces by Agostino di Scipio and Douglas Henderson serve as case studies to demonstrate the efficacy of the developed analytical techniques. The methods proposed are the result of the combination of objective measurements with perceptual data, and of existing procedures of musical notation and analysis with my own intuitions. Assuming that certain perceptual mechanisms are akin to all musical styles, the ultimate goal of this research is that of showing how and what kind of local and large-scale organizational patterns can emerge by listening to electroacoustic music.

  • Producing Incantations: Salvatore Sciarrino's Works for Flute

    Author:
    Roberta Michel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Shaugn O'Donnell
    Abstract:

    Salvatore Sciarrino's works hold a seminal place in the avant-garde repertoire of the late twentieth century. Sciarrino's musical language is not widely understood, nor are his unique techniques for playing many instruments. Of the two instruments he most consistently favors, the piano and the flute, the flute is the instrument with which he repeatedly achieves human intensity and breathable warmth. In this dissertation I show how he creates a new sonic palette, fabricating a new instrument out of the traditional flute, a "superflute" of sorts. Using his first volume of solo flute music, I borrow Sciarrino's own analytical tools to analyze these works, using his "figures" as interpretive, as well as analytical, tools. Sciarrino's flute works appears a daunting undertaking to flutists because of their notation and the almost complete absence of any traditional flute sonorities. I provide a guide to learning the techniques of his works and turning those physical techniques into musical gestures while suggesting possible interpretations through my experience of learning the pieces.

  • Twelve-Tone Cartography: Space, Chains, and Intimations of "Tonal" Form in Anton Webern's Twelve-Tone Music

    Author:
    Brian Moseley
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Joseph Straus
    Abstract:

    This dissertation proposes a theory and methodology for creating musical spaces, or maps, to model form in Webern's twelve-tone compositions. These spaces are intended to function as "musical grammars," in the sense proposed by Robert Morris. And therefore, significant time is spent discussing the primary syntactic component of Webern's music, the transformation chain, and its interaction with a variety of associational features, including segmental invariance and pitch(-class) symmetry. Throughout the dissertation, these spaces function as an analytical tools in an exploration of this music's deep engagement with classical formal concepts and designs. This study includes analytical discussions of the Piano Variations, Op. 27 and the String Quartet, Op. 28, and extended analytical explorations of the second movement of the Quartet, Op. 22, and two movements from the Cantata I, Op. 29.

  • HUMANITY AND MECHANICITY IN THE MUSIC OF NINE INCH NAILS

    Author:
    Patrick Muchmore
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Shaugn O'Donnell
    Abstract:

    The primary purpose of this dissertation is to provide analyses of the first four albums, spanning 1989-1999, by the American band Nine Inch Nails: pretty hate machine, broken, the downward spiral and The Fragile. In each case an album-level general analysis is followed by close readings of a few select tracks. Many analytical approaches, both traditional and new, are used, but a particular emphasis is placed on the sound of the track itself being the primary artistic object. Stereo spatialization and sonic effects are thus treated equally to melodic, formal and harmonic structures. The analyses are held together by a consistent interrogation of "humanity" and "mechanicity" in the compositional choices made and the resulting senses of agency that such choices often create. A resulting secondary purpose of the dissertation is an attempt to begin codifying the nature of human and mechanical agency, as well as to provide some exegesis on the effect of a variety of compositional choices in the recording studio. Finally, a brief effort to categorize the Nine Inch Nails discography up to 2009 reveals a larger narrative throughout the band's career.

  • AN ANALYSIS OF OLIVIER MESSIAEN'S LAST PIANO SOLO WORK: LES PETITES ESQUISSES D'OISEAUX

    Author:
    Quynh Nguyen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Ruth DeFord
    Abstract:

    This dissertation undertakes an in-depth study of Olivier Messiaen's last piano solo composition, Les Petites Esquisses d'oiseaux. The work, dedicated to Yvonne Loriod, features the songs of birds common to France: the robin, the blackbird, the song thrush and the skylark. Chapter 1 canvasses the circumstances in which this work was composed. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the compositional techniques employed by Messiaen in this work, including modes, color-chords, neumes and Greek rhythmic meter. Chapter 3 discusses the significance of birdsong in Messiaen's composition and its use in Les Petites Esquisses d'oiseaux. Some of Messiaen's rough sketches of the robin, the blackbird, the skylark and the song thrush, contained in the 200 cahiers de notation stored at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, are examined and compared to the published work Les Petites Esquisses d'oiseaux. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the whole suite of six movements. Chapter 5 compares the three movements of "Le Rouge-gorge" [The Robin]. Chapter 6 discusses the three contrasting movements: "Le Merle noir" [The Blackbird], "La Grive musicienne" [The Song Thrush] and "L'Alouette des champs" [The Skylark]. Finally, Chapter 7 synthesizes the results of analyses and the information gleaned from lessons and conversations with Yvonne Loriod to address performance issues and offer recommendations to future performers of Les Petites Esquisses d'oiseaux.