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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Formation and process in repetitive post-tonal music Boyle, Antares Leah


A body of post-tonal compositions (including works by Berio, Birtwistle, Boulez, Donatoni, Feldman, and Sciarrino) engage in what I term “maximalist repetition”: they employ diverse ways of repeating material, with a particular focus on the varied repetition of short gestures and ideas. Their unique forms present a challenge to music analysts. While segmentation theories provide a method for identifying musical objects that result from repetition, these approaches do not typically account for processes and articulations that are less object-like. I propose an alternative method that recognizes other effects of maximalist repetition, such as continuative ostinato-like processes and segments without clear boundaries. Chapter 1 introduces the repertoire and identifies two important functions of repetition—the formation of musical objects and the emergence of long-range rhythmic processes—that motivate and structure the rest of the dissertation. Chapter 2 identifies several weaknesses in existing segmentation theories: they rely on crisp boundaries, neglect temporal processes, and do not propose qualitative distinctions between segments. I advocate integrating ideas of process, temporal function, and closure, drawn from accounts of phrase formation, with these Gestalt-based models. In Chapter 3 I do so, describing the features that afford perception of grouping functions (beginning and ending) and how potential segments are heard to form as a result. The chapter also addresses two other factors impacting degree of segment closure: rhythmic discontinuity and temporal schemas. I apply this model of segment formation and closure in analysis of music by Berio, Boulez, Donatoni, and Sciarrino. Chapter 4 surveys the literature on repetition as process, including accounts of ostinato repetition and groove, in order to better characterize the heightened sense of continuity that can result from ostinato-like repetition and identify the conditions in which it emerges. Chapter 5 uses these accounts to guide analysis of varied ostinato repetition in the repertoire under consideration, showing how excerpts by Birtwistle, Donatoni, and Feldman create their own unique grooves. Chapters 6 and 7 present focused analysis of longer passages and movements (by Sciarrino and Birtwistle) to demonstrate how repetitive post-tonal works articulate larger forms and processes. Chapter 8 summarizes and suggests areas for future research.

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