Dissertation Index

Author: Maxwell, Braden N.

Title: Designated Qualities: A New Approach to the Music of Maurice Ravel

Institution: University of Rochester: Eastman School of Music

Begun: August 2020

Completed: November 2022


There are musical configurations (patterns in the arrangement of sound materials), and there are experiential qualities evoked by musical configurations. If the configurations we can name and understand are not associated with the experiential qualities we want to communicate about, how can we shift our object of study to the experiential quality itself? Anyone who has ever heard an indescribable quality in Ravel’s works—perhaps a difficult to define modal quality in the Piano Trio, or a unique kind of richness in Le Tombeau de Couperin —will understand the curiosity driving this question. The present work addresses this challenge first by treating qualities that emerge within the mind of a single individual as valid objects of study, prior to an understanding of their musical or cognitive basis. Using a methodology derived from the phonetician Louis Hjelmslev, these qualities are not named, described, or even fully understood, but “pointed towards” or “designated.” The author asks the reader, “do you hear any quality that appears and disappears across various musical configurations, as I have described?” If the answer is yes, then the quality has received a designation, shared between observers. If the answer is no, the author and reader have potentially uncovered a difference in how musical configurations relate to the qualities they perceive. The process of “designation” is simultaneously a process of introspection, as the author learns about the musical features and configurations that cause a quality to be evoked within the author’s own mind. Qualities are considered across a selection of Ravel’s works, including (in addition to those mentioned above) Jeux d’eau, Menuet sur le nom d’Haydn, Concerto in G, and the Introduction et Allegro.

Keywords: Linguistics; Effect; Qualia; Ravel; Subjective; Experiential; Perception; Ineffable; Observation; Supervenience


Chapter 1: What is the Designated Quality Approach?
1.0 Overview and Chapter Outline
1.1 A Thought Experiment: The Teacher/Student Game
1.2 Introductory Examples
1.3 Qualities as Meanings
1.4 Qualities and Qualia
1.5 A Move Away from Supervenience
1.6 Perspectives from Ravel and his Contemporaries
1.7 Additional Ravelian Contexts

Chapter 2: A Step by Step Guide to Designated Quality Analysis
2.1 Pre Claims
2.2 C claims (exploratory Commutation testing)
2.3 I claims
2.4 Explanatory Distance
2.5 Simultaneous Qualities
2.6 Obstacles
2.7 How to Read a Designated quality Analysis

Chapter 3: Basic Applications of the Designated Quality Approach
3.1 Qualities and Neutral Level Descriptions, Lockstep 155
3.2 “Harmony +” : Qualities based on harmony and another neutral level parameter
3.3 Analyzing qualities in larger passages: Le Tombeau de Couperin: V. Menuet (Musette)
3.4 Analyzing qualities in larger passages: Le Tombeau de Couperin: I. Prélude

Chapter 4: Extensions of the Approach
4.1 Long range Qualities
4.2 Composite Qualities
4.3 Adjacent Qualities
4.4 Qualities Unique to a Performance

Chapter 5: Future Directions
5.1 Future Directions in Music Theory
5.2 Connections to the Scientific Method


Email: bmaxwel2@u.rochester.edu

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