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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Moments of being: The topology of timbre and memory as a compositional process
by Hirsch, Adam, M.F.A., Mills College, 2016, 76; 10117391
Abstract (Summary)

This interdisciplinary study examines episodic memory and instrumental timbre as structural analogs, and explores the potential of their relationships within a compositional framework. The paper begins by framing contemporary models of memory and timbre within the notion of topology—the ways in which patterns of components are interrelated within an abstract space, and how those patterns remain consistent or degrade over time. I proceed to probe the ways in which both memorial and timbral processes are constructed upon spectra of stability and coherence, and examine the role of “place” in the establishment of these spectra. My analysis occurs at one possible intersection of neurology, psychoacoustics, spectral composition, and the poetics of memoir. The second half of the paper is concerned with how these theories are applied in practice within my composition fragments in autumn for cello trio and electronics. A personal history, structural analysis, and close reading of the piece demonstrates the possibilities of memory as a compositional/timbral process, as well as the difficulties and instabilities that are inherent in such an endeavor. Through both creative and scholarly modes of inquiry, I pose to myself and the reader: How can music function as an act of translation in regard to something as opaque and personal as memory? How can the resonant properties of an instrument be treated with the same complexities and nuances of a remembering mind? How might these processes of memory move away from modes of “story-telling” and toward a more abstract exploration of topological contours? How do these models of timbre and memory function as prescriptive frameworks for composing, and where do they break down?

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Parkins, Zeena, Payne, Maggi
Commitee: Bernstein, David
School: Mills College
Department: Music - Electronic Music and Recording Media
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 55/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Neurosciences, Music, Acoustics
Keywords: Composition, Electroacoustic, Memory, Psychoacoustics, Timbre, Topology
Publication Number: 10117391
ISBN: 978-1-339-78778-7
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