UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Swallow, egg, chrysanthemum : music composition with document Pritchard, Robert Blake


Swallow, Egg, Chrysanthemum is a sixteen minute work for piano and orchestra. The title refers to symbols from Greek, Western and Asian cultures, with all of the symbols being associated with life, death, or resurrection. Over the course of the piece the interaction of the piano with the orchestra creates a metaphor for the journey of the human soul through the three states of existence. Each of the three contiguous movements carries the name of one of the symbols, whose physical aspects influence the internal form of the movement. In recognition of the conflict between an acceptance of life and death, and a belief in life, death and resurrection, the work contains coexisting two- and three- part forms. At the temporal level, “Swallow” is balanced by “Egg” and “Chrysanthemum”, and this balance is aided by a blurring of the boundary between the last two movements. The musical language of the work is based in part on the use of cyclical, diminishing permutations of pitch collections, which are themselves derived from a master pitch group. The permutations reduce the number of pitches in each collection, creating an apparent “zeroing in” on a single pitch or “tonic goal”. As a result, moving backwards or forwards through the reductive process can increase or decrease the musical tension of a particular passage, by altering the number of pitches present. Twelve harmonic areas are created using this technique, and over the course of the work each of them is touched upon, with certain ones being of greater importance. Foreshadowing has been used in the form of the work as a unifying device and is present at the micro and macro levels. The form of the Introduction can be mapped onto the first two movements, and onto the piece as a whole. In the last movement a process of postshadowing occurs, whereby earlier material is reinterpreted and transformed in a summation of the work.

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