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Articulating Time: Listening to Musical Forms in the Twenty-First Century

Powell, Richard L (2016) Articulating Time: Listening to Musical Forms in the Twenty-First Century. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This study sets out to explore concepts of musical time by developing two complementary strands of discussion, one practical and the other theoretical. The practical strand is concerned directly with instrumental works from the Western art music tradition. Underpinning the thesis are five analytical case studies; in each, a piece written by a living composer (George Benjamin, John Adams, Hans Abrahamsen, Kaija Saariaho and Thomas Adès) is paired with a work by a historical figure (Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Beethoven and Sibelius). Emphasis falls upon the contemporary works, with the more familiar canonic repertoire serving as a lens through which more recent music might be viewed. United by a broad conception of form as a duration that draws listeners to engage creatively with an organising impulse, these pieces facilitate discussions of broader issues of aural structure: continuity, repetition, energy and perspective. An overriding concern will be the effect that these perceptual qualities have upon experiences of time in music, and the ways in which this might enable different kinds of meaning. Through this process, it is intended that more ‘difficult’ new works can be rendered more accessible, while familiar ‘masterpieces’ might by the same token be viewed in a new light. This musicological endeavour will be informed by an investigation into the ways in which time is perceived. This supporting theoretical strand will synthesise philosophical and psychological conceptions of temporality, and their contributions to subjective perspectives, to provide a framework for the experiences discussed. Whilst the ‘twenty-first century’ aspect of the thesis title serves as a nod towards an emphasis upon contemporary composition, it also refers to the diversity facing audiences today. The juxtaposition of new and old is reflective of more recent cultures of reception: listening habits are formed less by a socially-driven system of canons, and increasingly according to individual preference. This is an attempt to analyse the temporality of musical works at a point when their compositional chronology has perhaps never seemed so irrelevant. Rather than offering overarching theories of perception or prescribing specific methods of analysis and interpretation, this study embraces the plurality of experienced musical time in the acknowledgement that articulating these phenomena might enrich an appreciation of a variety of musical styles.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Related URLs:
Academic Units: The University of York > Music (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.714377
Depositing User: Mr Richard L Powell
Date Deposited: 19 May 2017 12:32
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:22
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/17150

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