Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Wordless Syntax and Holarchic Flux in Terrain
by Smith, Andrew C., D.M.A., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2020, 147; 28002204
Abstract (Summary)

Central to the comparison between language and music is what Theodor Adorno termed a “wordless syntax,” such that the elements of a work of art might be held in relation to one another, rather than fixed relative to a static hierarchical form. In music, this syntax creates a tension between the expressive, voice-like aspects of melody, and the abstract, syntactical structures of harmony. The use of linguistic material further complicates the musical syntax, as there are multiple competing hierarchical structures at play. As an alternative to the word “hierarchy” in relation to musical form, the composer James Tenney offered “holarchy” as a replacement which sets elements in relation to one another, rather than to a fixed structure. The friction and instability created by multiple syntactical systems and the material nature of the music generates what I call in this dissertation holarchic flux.

In addition to a theoretical overview of holarchic flux and its relation to language and music, this essay outlines a novel algorithm for interval and chord rationalization, using Tenney’s metric of harmonic distance. This essay also describes a number of compositions of mine, including a solo voice work How to Get There From Here and ensemble compositions We remember not the word, but the sound of the word, and Terrain, with regard to the concepts of holarchic flux and musical syntax.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Polansky, Larry
Commitee: Dunn, David, Harryman, Carla
School: University of California, Santa Cruz
Department: Music Composition
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Musical composition, Music, Music theory
Keywords: Adorno, Theodor, Just intonation, Microtonal music, Poetics, Spectralism, Tenney, James
Publication Number: 28002204
ISBN: 9798662481695
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