Dissertation Index

Author: Bryden, Kristy A.

Title: Musical Conclusions: Exploring Closural Processes in Five Late Twentieth-Century Chamber Works

Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Begun: May 1998

Completed: May 2001


In tonal music of the common-practice era, closural processes are a well-defined phenomenon. These processes, however, are not as well understood in recent nontonal music. This study meets the need for more work in this area by examining closural processes in five recent American chamber works. These works include Joan Tower’s Petroushskates, the “Overtura” from John Harbison’s Piano Quintet, the “Invention” from George Perle’s Wind Quintet No. 4, Ralph Shapey’s Concertante No. 1 for Trumpet and 10 Players, and Barbara Kolb’s Umbrian Colors.

In chapter one, I introduce the concept of closure by analyzing the closural processes in the Adagio quasi un poco andante movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131. In the second chapter, I develop six principles that serve as a base for exploring closure. Closural processes are (1) temporal and may operate on both local and larger more global levels, (2) lines of increasing intensity followed by lines of decreasing intensity, (3) the creation and then either the fulfillment or postponement of expectations, (4) a summary of past events, (5) the highlighting of concluding moments, and (6) transitional techniques leading into or foreshadowing the following event. This chapter investigates how musical motion provides a sense of closure and introduces my method to use graphs to represent visually the rising and falling sense of intensity in a work.

In chapter three, I demonstrate how each of the closural principles formalized in chapter two occurs in each of the selected works. In the fourth chapter, I summarize how these works carry out these general principles in their own unique way. An appendix includes a graph for each of the selected works and for Beethoven’s Adagio quasi un poco andante and an explanation of how I developed the intensity curves for each graph.

Keywords: Joan Tower, John Harbison, George Perle, Ralph Shapey, Barbara Kolb


Chapter One: What Is It That Creates the Sensation of Closure in Tonal Music?

Chapter Two: Musical Motion Expressed Through Lines of Intensity

Chapter Three: Principles of Closure

Chapter Four: Conclusions


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