Dissertation Index

Author: Freer, Nicholas

Title: Allan Holdsworth: Principles of Harmonic Organisation in Selected Compositions

Institution: University of Melbourne

Begun: January 2017

Completed: July 2022


This thesis analyses selected post-tonal compositions by contemporary guitarist Allan Holdsworth. This thesis uses the pitch-class set-theory model as a basis of analysis. It also engages contemporary post-tonal extensions to existing tonal concepts such as voice leading in set-class space, consonance and dissonance measures, transposition and symmetry. Within the thesis and the Holdsworth compositions selected, various levels of connections are explicated through harmonic analysis of surface level transformations, succession analysis from individual simultaneities up to macro-organisational structures and formal processes. Holdsworth consciously eschews the harmonically prescriptive functionality and acculturated melodic syntax of traditional tonal jazz (often replicated through imitation), purposely manifesting his own paradigm. This paradigm has several key components: an expansion of chord-scale principles, a wide range of referential sets utilised as linear and vertical sources of pitch-class grouping, the employment of non-tertian harmony, and the utilisation of non-functional harmonic succession(s).

Keywords: Allan Holdsworth, Jazz Analysis, Music Theory, Set-Theory, Jazz Music Theory,


Part I: Overview
Chapter One
An Introduction to Allan Holdsworth
1.0 Holdsworth as a Performer and Composer

Chapter Two
Situating Allan Holdsworth

Chapter Three
Literature Review

Part II: “The Sixteen Men of Tain” (2000)
Chapter Four
“The Sixteen Men of Tain” (2000) – Analysis and Overview
of Subsection B1

Chapter Five
BCS Transposition in B1 and the Complete Transpositional Cycle in “The Sixteen Men of Tain”

Chapter Six
Transposition and Invariance in the B Section of “The Sixteen Men of Tain”

Chapter Seven
The Hyper Nonatonic Superset Multiplex and Inter-Collection Transposition in “The Sixteen Men of Tain”

Chapter Eight
The Correlation of Harmonic Organisation in John Coltrane’s
"Giant Steps” and Holdsworth’s “The Sixteen Men of Tain”

Part III: “5 to 10” (1992)
Chapter Nine
“5 to 10” (1992) – Overview and Analysis of the A Section

Chapter Ten
The Seven Phrases in the A Section of “5 to 10”

Chapter Eleven
Rhythm, Duration and Harmony in the A Section of “5 to 10”

Chapter Twelve
The B Section of “5 to 10”

Part IV: “The Drums Were Yellow” (2000)
Chapter Thirteen
The Chord Section of “The Drums Were Yellow” (2000)

Chapter Fourteen
The Second Phrase of “The Drums Were Yellow”

Chapter Fifteen
The Third Phrase of “The Drums Were Yellow”

Chapter Sixteen
The Fourth Phrase of “The Drums Were Yellow”

Chapter Seventeen
The Fifth Phrase of “The Drums Were Yellow”

Part V: Thesis Conclusion
Chapter Eighteen
The Holdsworth Oeuvre 304



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