Dissertation Index

Author: DeThorne, Jeffrey D.


Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Begun: June 2006

Completed: August 2010


When asked by a violinist why he wrote a particularly difficult violin part, Beethoven allegedly responded, “Does he believe that I think of his wretched fiddle when the spirit speaks to me?” While the violinist bemoans the neglect of his instrument’s technical abilities, Beethoven insists that the “spirit” of composition should not be hampered by any particular instrumental manifestation. Both the performer and the composer betray a certain anxiety about the significance of the instrument.

This dissertation examines various cultural anxieties between two schools of instrumental sound in the 19th and 20th centuries. The first school, associated with Beethoven and German orchestral music, seeks to subordinate individual wind colors within a colorless, organ-like orchestration. For Hugo Riemann, writing at the end of the 19th century, doubling and thereby neutralizing an “objective” wind color creates a more “subjective,” string-centered sonority that carefully plasticizes the compositional structure without disturbing the transparent whole. The second school, associated with Berlioz and French romanticism, values both individual instrumental colors and diffuse orchestral sonorities in themselves. While Theodor Adorno considers Berlioz’s emancipation of instrumental color revolutionary, he nevertheless critiques the late 19th-century romantic orchestra’s dissolution of particular individual instrumental colors into a diffuse, generalized sonority. For Adorno, it was left to Alban Berg to create a genuinely dialectical “fluctuation” of particular color and diffuse sonority in the orchestration of his own Frühen Lieder (1923).

If colorful French instrumentation and colorless German orchestration subtend 19th-century aesthetics of instrumental sound, 20th-century music aesthetics separate colorful noise from colorless sonority. Luigi Russolo’s “art of noises” requires noise reduction, and Pierre Schaeffer promotes the abstraction of sound from its noisy source into “musical objects.” If our current understanding aligns electronic music wholly with modernity and its putatively radical and self-conscious break with the past, this dissertation suggests that an essential underlying continuity in the French-instrumentation/German-orchestration binary persists even in the face of the decline of the musical and cultural traditions that created and sustained them.

Keywords: orchestration, aesthetics, timbre, Berlioz, Riemann, Adorno, Boulez, Varese, Schaeffer


Chapter 1
Colorful Instrumentation and Colorless Orchestration

Plastic Instrumentation and Transparent Orchestration

Post-Compositional Orchestration and Orchestration-as-Composition

Colorful Instrumentation (I1) vs.Transparent Orchestration (O2)

French (I1 and O1) and German (I2 and O2) Instrumentation and Orchestration

Chapter 2
Riemann and the Klang of Orchestration

Subjectivating a Klang and Objectivating a Farbe

Riemann’s Klang and the Subjective String Orchestra

Riemann’s Farbe and the Objective Romantic Orchestra

The Middle Chapters: Riemann’s Orchestral Farbklang

Critiquing and Preserving German Orchestration: Wagner vs. Schenker

Chapter 3
Emancipating Color: Adorno and the Critique of Orchestration

Kurth’s “Absolute” Instrumental Color

Wellesz’s “New Instrumentation”

Schoenberg’s Orchestration (O2) and Webern’s Instrumentation (I2)

Adorno and the Impossibility of Orchestration

Klang-Farbe “Fluctuation” in Berg’s Frühen Lieder

Adorno and Orchestration-as-Composition

Chapter 4
Striated Instrumentation, Smooth Orchestration, and Timbral Ionization

External/Internal Composition, Chamber/Orchestral Music, and Raw/Organized Timbre

Boulez’s Timbral Continuum in the Deuxième Improvisation sur Mallarmé (1958)

Varèse’s Timbral Continuum: Hyperprism (1924), Ionisation (1931), and Déserts (1959)

Chapter 5
Acoustic Instrumentation, Acousmatic Orchestration, and Eidetic Electroacoustics

Noise-Sound in Russolo’s L’arte dei rumori (1916)

Colorless Sonority in Schaeffer’s Traite des objets musicaux (1966)

Critiquing Sonority and Reviving Noise

Lamenting Noise Reduction: Henry’s Variations pour une porte et un soupir (1962)

Noisy French Instrumentation, Sonorous German Orchestration, and New German Noise-


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