Music Theory Online

The Online Journal of the Society for Music Theory


Volume 6, Number 2 May 2000
Copyright � 2000 Society for Music Theory

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Dissertation Listings


Capuzzo, Guy. "Variety Within Unity: Expressive Ends and their Technical Means in the Music of Elliott Carter, 1983-1994." Eastman School of Music, 1999.

AUTHOR: Capuzzo, Guy
TITLE: "Variety Within Unity: Expressive Ends and their Technical Means in the Music of Elliott Carter, 1983-1994"
INSTITUTION: Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
BEGUN: 1998

ABSTRACT: The dissertation investigates four compositions written by Elliott Carter (1908-) from 1983 to 1994: Changes (1983), Con Leggerezza Pensosa (1990), Scrivo in Vento (1991), and Gra (1994). After a review of the large and varied theoretical and analytic literature relevant to Carter, I show that considering each of the four pieces as generated from a row, row class, and/or compositional space is analytically, theoretically, and aurally profitable. The dissertation attempts to account for what Carter's music can sound like--both to those persons familiar with it and to those for whom it is new.

Writers on Carter's music often employ metaphorical language in the description of his music's expressive effects--notions of conflict, opposition, dialogue, change and uniformity. I strive to capture the technical means underpinning the expressive results of these works.  Sometimes Carter's own writings are taken as a springboard; other times, I pursue my own interpretations. 

The dissertation has six chapters. Chapter 1 presents an Introduction and literature review, and defines terms and notation. Chapters 2-5 present analyses of the four pieces listed above. Chapter 6 is a Conclusion. 

Elliott Carter, Twentieth-Century, Analysis, set theory

69 Emerson Plaza West
Emerson, NJ, 07630-1877
tel: +1 201-261-0240

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Dodds, Michael R. "The Baroque Church Tones in Theory and Practice." University of Rochester, 1999. 

AUTHOR: Dodds, Michael R.
TITLE: "The Baroque Church Tones in Theory and Practice"
INSTITUTION: University of Rochester
BEGUN: Summer 1994
COMPLETED: January, 1999

The church tones, or tuoni ecclesiastici, are a set of tonalities arising from the harmonization and transposition of the eight Gregorian psalm tones in Roman Catholic Offices. Adriano Banchieri's classic theoretical presentation of the church tones in L'Organo suonarino (1605) was followed by a long succession of treatments by other music theorists, not least of all Johann Mattheson, who, in Das neu-eroffnete Orchestre (1713) used them as the foundation for his first listing of the twenty-four major and minor keys. This dissertation traces the church tones from their origins in late-sixteenth-century Italian psalmody, through Austrian and Bavarian sources, to their reception in the eighteenth century by north German theorists.

Because the church tones arose from the complex interaction of various conventions and practical constraints, not all Baroque musicians recognized them as modal categories in their own right. Others did recognize them as such, however, regarding them as the "tones according to the modern use" or as a reduction of Zarlino's twelve modes, and presenting them using the same theoretical apparatus used to explain the traditional eight- and humanistic twelve-mode systems. Changes in modal representation in a large body of keyboard cycles ordered according to the church tones suggest that the "transition from modes to keys," while incremental in certain respects, is best explained in terms of paradigm shifts occurring around the beginning and ending of the Baroque rather than as an evolutionary process. By mediating between vocal and instrumental ways of organizing tonal space, the church tones bridged the vocally oriented, twelve-mode system of the sixteenth century and the keyboard-oriented, two-mode system of the eighteenth century.

mode, modality, tone, tonality, modal representation, alternatim, practice, versets


I. Concepts and Contexts
II. Psalm-tone tonalities in Selected Late Cinquecento Writings
III. The Church Tones in Seicento Writings Addressing Organ-Choir Antiphony
IV. The Church Tones in Seicento Theoretical Writings
V. The Church Tones in Austrian and Bavarian Writings about  Music
VI. Modal Representation in Italian and South German Keyboard Versets Ordered according to the Church Tones
VII. Epilogue: The Reception of the Church Tones in Eighteenth-Century North German Music Theory

Division of Music
Meadows School of the Arts
Southern Methodist University
Dallas TX 75275
tel: +1 214-768-3595

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Harris, Joseph H. "Harmony in Olivier Messiaen's Eclairs sur l'Au-Dela." University of Iowa, 2000.

AUTHOR: Harris, Joseph H.
TITLE: "Harmony in Olivier Messiaen's Eclairs sur l'Au-Dela"
INSTITUTION: University of Iowa
BEGUN: January, 1998
COMPLETED: September, 2000

The aim of my dissertation is a comprehensive examination of the harmonic language of French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). I will systematically define Messiaen's harmonic techniques, then demonstrate his use of these techniques in his late orchestral work Eclairs sur l'Au-Dela (1991). 

Although Messiaen's music has been the subject of much scholarly research, his harmonic techniques have never received a rigorous examination. Most authors who have addressed this topic do little more than quote Messiaen's writings. In my dissertation, I intend to follow Messiaen's theories whenever possible; when his theories alone do not provide enough guidance for a complete analysis, I extrapolate and formulate new analytical strategies. 

As a result of my preliminary research, I have concluded that Messiaen's harmonic language comprises five elements: birdsong, modal passages, color chords, resonant sonorities, and free harmonic passages. Messiaen treats these elements as distinct categories and rarely combines them. However, he does use them simultaneously, juxtaposing and layering them in his music much the same way an abstractionist painter might juxtapose blocks of colors on the canvas. To faithfully analyze Messiaen's music, one must first be able to separate and identify each of these elements. Once this is done, one can then analyze relationships between the elements and a work's overall structure. 

To demonstrate Messiaen's harmonic techniques within the context of his music, I will analyze Eclairs sur l'Au-Dela, an orchestral work in eleven movements. This particular work is one of Messiaen's last completed compositions and provides perhaps the clearest illustration of his compositional methods. The size of the orchestra is small and the scoring (the distribution of musical materials among the instruments) tends to remain uniform. More importantly, Messiaen's compositional style evolved over the course of his career; late works such as Eclairs tend to offer the most concise and distinct examples of his harmonic techniques. 

Olivier Messiaen, Eclairs sur l'Au-Dela, analysis, atonal, harmony

Chapter 1: Introduction

1. Goals of the present study
2. Historical background of Eclairs sur l'Au-Dela and relevance to the present study
3. Assessment of previous research on Messiaen's harmonic language

Chapter 2: Classified Harmonic Elements

1. The modes of limited transposition
2. The turning chord group
3. The chord of resonance
4. The chord with contracted resonance
5. The chord in fourths
6. The chord of total chromaticism
7. The chord on the dominant
8. Chords of transposed inversions

Chapter 3: Unclassified Harmonic Elements

1. Resonance
    a. Pitch-class complementation
    b. Chromatic saturation
2. Voice leading
    a. Chromatic voice leading
    b. Split transformation

Chapter 4: Messiaen and Color

1. The historical relationship between color and pitch-class
2. Messiaen's relationship to contemporary artists
3. Messiaen's synesthetic experience of color
4. The influence of color on Messiaen's harmonic language
5. Cataloging colors in Messiaen's music
    a. Modal colors 
    b. Non-modal colors

Chapter 5: Analysis of Individual Movements of Eclairs sur l'Au-Dela

1. "Apparition de Christ glorieux"
2. "La constellation de Sagittaire"
3. "L'Oiseau-Lyre et la Ville-Fiancee"
4. "Les Elus marques de sceau"
5. "Demeurer dans l'Amour"
6. "Les sept Anges aux sept trompettes"
7. "Et Dieu essuiera toute larme de leurs yeux"
8. "Les Etoiles et la Gloire"
9. "Plusieurs oiseaux des arbres de Vie"
10. "Le chemin de l'Invisible"
11. "Le Christ, lumiere du Paradis"

Chapter 6: Conclusion

1. Relationships between harmonic elements
2. Critique of my analytical methodology
3. My analytical methodology applied to other works of Messiaen, and to works of other French composers

1212 Erin St. Apt. D
Madison, WI 53715
tel: +1 608-441-0017

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Herlin, Thomas R. "Carl Ruggles and the Viennese Tradition: A Comparative Analysis." University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000.

AUTHOR: Herlin, Thomas R.
TITLE: "Carl Ruggles and the Viennese Tradition: A Comparative Analysis"
INSTITUTION: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BEGUN: July, 1996
COMPLETED: April, 2000

The music of Carl Ruggles (1876-1971) is most often associated with that of the other American members of the International Composers' Guild (1921- 27). The Guild promoted new music of an experimental nature, which is difficult to place in any compositional "camp." The resultant association of this music, while warranted socially and historically, is unwarranted musically. The purpose of this study is to suggest a different association--that between Ruggles' music and the so-called atonal works of the second Viennese school. Four specific works are compared and contrasted: Ruggles' Men and Mountains (1924) and Portals (1925), Arnold Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 16 (1909), and Anton von Webern's Six Pieces for Orchestra, op. 6 (1909). In order to justify associations between Ruggles and the second Viennese school, four different aspects of the music are examined: pitch organization, texture, rhythm, and form. 

Ruggles, Schoenberg, Webern, Atonality, Analysis, Second Viennese School, International Composers' Guild, Men and Mountains, Portals

I. Introduction:

From Charles to Carl
A Comparison of the Music
A Note on the Scores

II. Pitch Content

Generalization to Pitch Class
Comparison of Completed Aggregates
Possible Precedents
Analysis of Pitch-Class Data

III. Texture

Tone Color
Loudness Patterns

IV. Rhythm

Tempo Indications
Meters and Trends in Beat Division
Other Aspects Affecting Rhythm

V. Form

Form in Ruggles' Men and Mountains and Portals
Form in Schoenberg's Five Pieces, op. 16, and Webern's Six Pieces, op. 6
Trends in Structure

VI. Summary and Conclusion

Carl Ruggles: An Inheritor of the European Tradition?

Appendix A: Lists of Completed Aggregates

Completed Aggregates in Ruggles' Men and Mountains and Portals
Some Completed Aggregates in Schoenberg's Five Pieces, op. 16, and Webern's Six Pieces, op. 6

Appendix B: Piano-Score Reductions (Ruggles)
Appendix C: Piano-Score Reductions (Schoenberg and Webern)
Appendix D: Pitch-Class Statistics
Appendix E: Lists of Sizes and Types of Chords

Sizes and Types of Chords in Ruggles' Men and Mountains and Portals
Sizes and Types of Chords in Schoenberg's Five Pieces, op. 16, and Webern's Six Pieces, op. 6


Thomas R. Herlin
13521 Delphi Drive
Littleton, CO 80124-2803
tel: +1 303-790-2813

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Johnson, Shersten R. "Hearing the Unvoiceable: Writer's Block in Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice." University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2002.

AUTHOR: Johnson, Shersten R.
TITLE: "Hearing the Unvoiceable: Writer's Block in Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice"
INSTITUTION: University of Wisconsin--Madison
BEGUN: May, 1998
COMPLETED: August, 2002, in progress

Britten's last opera, Death in Venice, essentially plays out a dramatic struggle for words that is formulated in words, and as such poses the analytical problem: how does one musically voice writer's block? The interrelation between character utterances (or lack thereof) and the ambient music that sounds and surrounds them is vital in a dramatic context driven by Aschenbach's chronic inability to write, speak, or at times even to understand words. Since the power of words is central to this drama, the ways in which words and music interact, and the ways in which these interactions are perceived over time, merit critical attention. My dissertation relies on the writings of Freud and others on the subject of blockage in the creative process to help develop notions of blockage in the opera's text-music discourse, and expands on these ideas to more distant domains of cognitive processes. The analysis uses various methods including Conceptual Integration Network models to describe the way a listener might create meaning beyond that of the text alone by composing a blended mapping of text-music concepts. By doing this analysis, I hope to shed light on one of the opera's central issues: the loss of words that both initiates Aschenbach's journey and follows him to the end. 

Benjamin Britten, Opera, Freud, Writer's Block, Text-Music Relations

4535 Humanities Building
455 North Park Street
Madison, WI 53706 
tel: +1 608-263-1880

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Nicholson, G. Gordon. "The Experience of Successful Contemporary Classical Musical Composition for Non- Computer-Assisted Performance: A Qualitative Study." Saybrook Institute (San Fransisco, CA), 1997.

AUTHOR: Nicholson, G. Gordon
TITLE: "The Experience of Successful Contemporary Classical Musical Composition for Non-Computer-Assisted Performance: A Qualitative Study"
INSTITUTION: Saybrook Institute, San Francisco, CA
COMPLETED: November, 1997

In this study, I have articulated the experience of musical composition for contemporary classical composers. The literature pertaining to several areas related to musical composition, as well as the writings of, and interviews with, eminent composers were surveyed as background to the study. There was also metatheoretical consideration of the Zen concept of interbeing and Bohm's theory of the interpenetration of all things, which provided background for understanding the creative experience of composition. 

Eight classical composers, participating in open-ended interviews, were asked to describe in detail their personal experiences of the practice of composition. Participants were familiarized with the qualitative interview methods used. The researcher, a composer, assumed the role of coauthor of the interviews, not to influence participants' descriptions, but to assist them in reliving their experiences of composing. 

The interview data were transcribed and analyzed into main themes.  A narrative model of the experiences of composing, which expands on previous models in the literature, was constructed. It was observed that the compositional process is non-linear in many ways, and that there was a pervasive interrelatedness of the identified themes. The themes include: (a) composers' thoughts during composition, including thoughts about music, and inner critical as well as self- confident thoughts; (b) flow, involving intense concentration, altered awareness, loss of sense of self, and a rush of ideas; (c) motivation, including both external encouragement and internal urgency; (d) influences, including score analysis and listening to other musical works; (e) technique-the development of ideas, personal vocabulary, craft, and intuition; (f) conception-the envisioning of structures, and the incubation and clarification of musical forms; (g) generation-the creation of musical ideas by improvisation, intuition, exploration, and sketching; (h) choices, including consideration of various possibilities, aesthetics, and editing; (i) composers' voice-nonverbal vocabulary, style, and self-expression; (j) play-letting go, improvisation, and discovery; and (k) artistic development, including both technical and personal dimensions. Intuition emerged as a pervasive secondary theme.  The model of compositional experience was then discussed in the context of metatheoretical considerations, particularly noting the absence of Cartesian elements in the artistic experience, theoretical models of consciousness, and the Zen notion of interbeing. The model was used to expand upon and dialogue with the broad areas of literature surveyed. Questions concerning the validity, coherence, and practical applications of this research were raised and addressed.

musical, composition, composers, interviews, qualitative methodology, model, compositional process, creativity,

Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Metatheoretical Considerations
Chapter 3. Literature Review, Part 1: Overview
Chapter 4. Literature Review, Part 2: Eminent Composers' Writings on Compositional Practice and Experience
Chapter 5. Research Methods
Chapter 6. Summary of Interviews
Chapter 7. Results of Data Analysis
Chapter 8. A Narrative Model of Compositional Experience
Chapter 9. Discussion of the Narrative Model: Validation and Summary
Appendix A. Consent to Participate in Research
Appendix B. Data Sheet for Interview Subjects
Appendix C. First Interview: Questionnaire and Interview Guide for Researcher
Appendix D. Interview Protocol (for Interview 2)
Appendix E. Second Interview Guide (for the Data-gathering Interview)
Appendix F. "Probe" Questions
Appendix G. Third Interview Guide (for Researcher-Interviewer) 

List of Figures

Gordon Nicholson
10545 Saskatchewan Drive #703
Edmonton, Alberta
T6E 6C6
tel: +1 780-433-9126 or +1 780-497-4468
fax: +1 780-497-4330

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Rifkin, Deborah. "Tonal Coherence in Prokofiev's Music: A Study of the Interrelationships of Structure, Motives, and Design." Eastman School of Music, 2000.

AUTHOR: Rifkin, Deborah
TITLE: "Tonal Coherence in Prokofiev's Music: A Study of the Interrelationships of Structure, Motives, and Design"
INSTITUTION: Eastman School of Music
COMPLETED: April, 2000

Prokofiev has written some of the most widely-admired music in the twentieth- century, including Peter and the Wolf, The Love for Three Oranges, and Lieutenant Kije. His distinctive compositional style can be recognized easily by its quirky turns of phrases and unexpected harmonies, which have been called "wrong notes" by many scholars. 

Integrating "wrong notes" into a theory of musical coherence has been problematic for scholars. Using the term "wrong" seems to imply that these chromatic excursions are incorrect substitutes for the "right notes," which would be notes that conform to conventional tonal expectations. Most studies interpret Prokofiev's music as tonal, yet they relegate the "wrong notes" to an insignificant structural status. Other analyses consider "wrong notes" integral elements of an atonal structure and approach wrong-note music using pitch-class set analysis. This dissertation proposes a third analytic perspective. It demonstrates how Prokofiev's supposedly "wrong- note" passages, rather than being anomalous to a tonal structure, instead actively participate in tonal coherence. 

One reason "wrong notes" challenge tonal theories of coherence is because they cannot be represented within a hierarchical system. The dissertation explores an alternative means of representation, a network model, which can accommodate non-hierarchical musical associations. Using a network model not only accommodates wrong notes, but it also better represents Schenkerian analytic practice. In addition to non-hierarchical prolongation techniques and wrong-note harmonic functions, networks can also represent relationships created by motives and design. Chapter Two discusses motives, differentiating between strongly and weakly tonal ones. Whether dependent or independent of their tonal context, however, motives help create relationships that make a supposedly "wrong note" belong in the music. While Chapters One and Two concentrate on pitch aspects of wrong-note music, the third chapter prioritizes non-pitch attributes. Chapter Three discusses formal and surface designs and their impact on the perception of a note as wrong.

Overall, Prokofiev's music can be best described using tonal networks that can represent corroborating and conflicting relationships between structure, motives, and design. 

coherence, Prokofiev, structure, motive, design, hierarchy, network, Schenker, wrong notes

Chapter 1: Wrong-Note Structures
Chapter 2: Pitch Motives, Networks, and Wrong Notes
Chapter 3: Design and Wrong-Note Music
Chapter 4: The Range of Coherence: Analytic Studies

Deborah Rifkin
tel: +1 831-689-9260

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Samplaski, Arthur G. "A Comparison of Perceived Chord Similarity with Predictions of Selected Twentieth- Century Chord-Classification Systems, using Multidimensional Scaling and Cluster Analysis." Indiana University, 2000.

AUTHOR: Samplaski, Arthur G.
TITLE: "A Comparison of Perceived Chord Similarity with Predictions of Selected Twentieth-Century Chord-Classification Systems, using Multidimensional Scaling and Cluster Analysis"
INSTITUTION: Indiana University
BEGUN: November, 1998
COMPLETED: April, 2000

There seems to be an implicit consensus among adherents of several classification systems for the chord-types of twentieth-century Western art music that in some sense they reflect listeners' perceptions. This dissertation undertook one perceptual study to test whether there is empirical support for such a view of these theories. Seventy trained musicians rated the similarities of pairs of tetrachords, played in random order by a computer program, under several different experimental conditions. A set of stringent criteria for the retention of listener data was used to ensure greater reliability and predictive power of the results. Listeners' responses were analyzed using two quantitative visualization techniques, multidimensional scaling and cluster analysis. The derived configurations were compared to the (qualitative) clustering predictions of four chord-classification systems: Forte's (1998)  pcset genera, Hindemith's (1937/1942) system, and two recent proposals by Simon Harris (1989) and Ian Quinn (1997). In all cases except a few with significant ambiguities, none of the classification schemes' predictions matched the perceived similarity groupings of listeners. Instead, a number of potential factors involving chord spacing and ordering of adjacent notes in chords were identified as contributing to listeners' similarity ratings.  These factors appear to interact or compete with each other in various domains, leading in some cases to complex or seemingly chaotic structure. An additional experiment was conducted to assess the relative salience of the pcset operations Tn and TnI in judging similarity; no evidence was seen that TnI played a role in listeners' judgments, while Tn played a significant role. No difference in strategies for judging similarity was observed based upon listeners' experience or inexperience with nontonal music. Pedagogical implications of thess findings are discussed.

music perception, music cognition, multidimensional scaling, cluster analysis, pcset genera, pcset theory, Paul Hindemith, Simon Harris, Ian Quinn, atonal analysis

I. Introduction and Overview
II. Background and Methods of Multidimensional Scaling (MDS) and Cluster Analysis (CA)
III. Review of Music-Theoretic Literature and Related Empirical Studies
IV. Methodology
V. Results
VI. Discussion
Glossary of Statistical Terms/Concepts

(After 29 May 2000)
218 Tareyton Dr., #3
Ithaca, NY 14850
tel: +1 607-257-0944 (tentative)

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14 November 2002