Dissertation Index

Author: Lemieux, Glenn C.

Title: "Music in Twelve Parts" by Philip Glass: Reconstruction, Construction and Deconstruction

Institution: University of Iowa

Begun: January 1998

Completed: June 1999


"Music in Twelve Parts" is a major work by Philip Glass written between 1971 and 1974. In essense, it summarizes the compositional techniques Glass was using which have come under the rubric of minimalism. Glass says:

"All of my works which predate 1976 fall within the highly reductive style known as minimalism. I feel that minimalism can be traced to a fairly specific timeframe, from 1965 through 1975, and nearly all my compositions during this period may be placed in this general category. All such categories are arbitrary, however, and can be misleading. For example, although "Music in 12 Parts" would most likely be classified as a minimal work, it was a breakthrough for me and contains many of the structural and harmonic ideas that would be fleshed out in my later works. It is a modular work, one of the first such compositions, with twelve distinct parts which can be performed separately in one long sequence, or in any combination or variation. Each part concentrated on several of these techniques (cyclic, additive and repetitive structure), and by the completion of Part 10, the cataloguing was fairly intact. Thus Part 11 concentrated on the joining places of the other parts, which, to the listener, appeared as modulations. Part 12 turned to cadence--the formal closing phrases we are accustomed to hearing in western music--as a fitting end to such an extended piece.”

The major problem in examing the music is that a full score of "Music in Twelve Parts" does not exist. In fact, it is only available as a partially-orchestrated sketch and a set of hand-written instrumental parts. To solve this problem, Dunvagen Music Publishers, Glass’s own company, has approved the engraving of this piece in FINALE as part of this project. In addition, an in-depth analysis of whole piece does not exist, although various general descriptions and single movement analyses can be found. To date, three recordings of the piece have been made: in 1974, parts one and two were recorded on the Caroline label; in 1989, a recording of the entire piece was made by Virgin Records; and in 1996, Nonesuch released another recording of the entire piece.

Keywords: minimalism, cyclicism, additive, repetitive, rhythm, modular


I. Introduction
II. Reconstruction: background to the music

1. Minimalism
2. Previous works by Glass
3. Theoretical and philosophical basis

III. Construction: making the score

1. Full score
2. Commentary

IV. Deconstruction: Analysis of the piece

1. Macrostructure
2. Proportions and microstructures
3. Harmonic analysis
4. Orchestration

V. Conclusion


Glenn Lemieux
P.O. Box 2771
Iowa City, IA 52244
319-339-1651 (h)
319-335-5877 (w)

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