Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Rethinking Patterns: Associative Formal Analysis and Luciano Berio's Sequenzas
by Schullman, Matthew David Monfredo, Ph.D., Yale University, 2016, 366; 10160876
Abstract (Summary)

Between 1958 and 2002, Italian composer Luciano Berio wrote fourteen compositions that have since become integral to the solo repertoire of the twentieth-century: the Sequenzas. A well-received body of works, the Sequenzas are most obviously defined by their virtuosity and timbral, technical experimentation. They are also marked by another feature, however—an analytically refractory nature. Indeed, the music of these pieces tends to resist applications of traditional analytic methods (especially those reliant on crisp category constructions), prompting a question—the question to which this dissertation responds: given the Sequenzas' resistance to mainstream tools, how might meaningful interpretations be generated for them? Or more specifically, how can form be supplied to the Sequenzas?

In this dissertation, I answer this question by proposing that formal sense can be generated for the Sequenzas by way of a traditional type of analysis referred to here as associative formal analysis. In this style of analysis, small-scale recurring units within the music— patterns—are appealed to in order to determine local-level form, each pattern's instantiation signaling a segment. The interaction and development of the patterns over time—both of which define the patterns' collective temporal associative design—are then consulted in order to supply shape to the music along more global lines.

I propose more than this, however, for were the proposition simply that associative formal analysis is useful in the Sequenzas' consideration, 1) this dissertation would be rehearsing an old argument and 2) such an assertion could not explain why set-class analysis (one type of associative formal analysis) is less effective. I thus specify that it is not merely associative formal analysis that is productive but a certain type of associative formal analysis.

Crucial to recognize about associative formal analysis, and what accounts for its various types, is the existence of two variables within the analytic strategy. The first variable concerns the patterns recognized: obviously, associative formal analysis involves the location of patterns, but what do (legitimate) patterns look like? The second variable concerns the evaluation of temporal associative design: which relationships, processes, etc. ought to be considered in assessments of pattern behavior?

Relative to the variable of pattern recognition, I propose that meaningful analytic results emerge in the Sequenzas' analysis when an orientation is adopted that incorporates both 1) a multiple-domain perspective (beyond pitch and pitch-related domains) and 2) a flexible approach—an approach to pattern recognition that allows for the variable use of multiple pattern-recognition strategies, many of which permit the recognition of less crisply defined patterns. This promotion of flexible-pattern recognition is central to this dissertation's methodology and, in some respects, is not new; but this dissertation renders the flexibility of its method in an uncommonly explicit fashion. Thereby, a direct answer is supplied to a question often neglected: if flexibility is beneficial, what does this flexibility look like?

Then, relative to the variable concerning temporal associative design, I propose that meaningful results emerge through a method that attends to both the development of patterns and the nature of their interaction, particularly as it concerns what is referred to here as relative duration and relative position.

So as to wage and substantiate both of these propositions, the dissertation proceeds in two parts. Part I outlines the dissertation's methodology, thereby introducing tools and discursive means that are apt to be of broad appeal. Notable among Part I's contributions are a set of terms and bases for the general evaluation and comparison of pattern types. Another prominent contribution is a newly formalized pattern type that consolidates previously marginalized work and a basic logic that permeates informal discourse: the Mode of Activity. Part II then features two extended, piece-long analyses of Sequenza VIIa and Sequenza XI. Through them, the dissertation demonstrates the power and potential of this dissertation's methodology, both of which are alluded to but not developed through Part I's small-scale analyses of music from Sequenzas I, III, IV, V, and IXa. Through the analyses, a message central to this project is also substantiated: patterns defined by low levels of associative specificity can be powerful objects of analytic inquiry, especially when they are responsibly defined and rigorously pursued. It is this author's hope that the communication of this message—combined with the general, pattern-based resources of this dissertation—will embolden others to be similarly adventurous in their association-making, helping to open up and expand analytic discourse on the Sequenzas and beyond.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Quinn, Ian
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 78/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Fine arts, Music, Performing Arts
Publication Number: 10160876
ISBN: 978-1-369-15771-0
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