Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Musical score for the documentary film "Sixty Million Years"
by Seldin, Ellen, M.Mus., Southern Methodist University, 2015, 59; 1588467
Abstract (Summary)

The music composed to portray the desert is initially in the quartal harmonies favored by Aaron Copland. The open and vast expanses of the desert led to this first desert theme. An arial view of the desert inspires a second, romantic desert theme, in F major. The most fundament organization of music, the overtone series, accompanies the presentation of the tortoise eggs, and follows them through their emergence from these shells. A tortoise theme, the third theme, using the consonant middle range of the overtone series, intervals of a third and a whole step, is created to accompany the first views of the baby tortoise movements. With the destruction of both the desert and the creatures within it by wildfires, the musical pattern becomes ever more dissonant, with finally only the intervals from the upper reaches of the overtone series, the tritone and half step, being used. Percussion is introduced when there is mention of civilization encroaching upon the desert. The bassoon is chosen to portray the tortoise. When we see the tortoise moving across the desert floor the tempo becomes adagio. In the third section, where there are suggestions for what might be done to avoid extinction of this creature, (replanting of seeds, relocation of the tortoise population to more suitable habitats), major harmonies are chosen. The goal of the musical score is, ultimately, to evoke admiration for a creature that has survived for so long. In the final two minutes of the film the tortoise theme is expanded. Judicious use is made throughout of the range of orchestral colors and instruments: in some places just a few instruments will sound, in others, especially toward the end of this nineteen minute film, the full palette of the orchestra is used. Ellen Taylor Seldin Sixty Million Years Abstract: The desert tortoise has survived sixty million years, outliving the dinosaurs and several ice ages. This documentary film, Sixty Million Years, portrays its current existence in the Mojave Desert, Nevada, USA, and the desert scientists working for its survival. The film is divided into three sections: the emergence of the tortoise from its egg shell, the adult tortoise, with the on-going threats to its existence, and in the third section, areas where there can be realistic hope for its survival. The music composed to portray the desert is initially in the quartal harmonies favored by Aaron Copland. The open and vast expanses of the desert led to this first desert theme. An arial view of the desert inspires a second, romantic desert theme, in F major. The most fundament organization of music, the overtone series, accompanies the presentation of the tortoise eggs, and follows them through their emergence from these shells. A tortoise theme, the third theme, using the consonant middle range of the overtone series, intervals of a third and a whole step, is created to accompany the first views of the baby tortoise movements. With the destruction of both the desert and the creatures within it by wildfires, the musical pattern becomes ever more dissonant, with finally only the intervals from the upper reaches of the overtone series, the tritone and half step, being used. Percussion is introduced when there is mention of civilization encroaching upon the desert. The bassoon is chosen to portray the tortoise. When we see the tortoise moving across the desert floor the tempo becomes adagio. In the third section, where there are suggestions for what might be done to avoid extinction of this creature, (replanting of seeds, relocation of the tortoise population to more suitable habitats), major harmonies are chosen. The goal of the musical score is, ultimately, to evoke admiration for a creature that has survived for so long. In the final two minutes of the film the tortoise theme is expanded. Judicious use is made throughout of the range of orchestral colors and instruments: in some places just a few instruments will sound, in others, especially toward the end of this nineteen minute film, the full palette of the orchestra is used.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Frank, Robert
Commitee: Feezell, Mark, Sweidel, Martin, Xi, Wang
School: Southern Methodist University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Texas
Source: MAI 54/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Music, Environmental management, Behavioral Sciences
Keywords: Desert tortoise, Documentary film with score, Original composition
Publication Number: 1588467
ISBN: 9781321739695
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