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Title: Rethinking the Sign: Stylistic Competency and Interpretation of Musical Textures, 1890-1920
Authors: Frymoyer, Johanna
Advisors: Agawu, Kofi V
Burnham, Scott
Contributors: Music Department
Keywords: analysis
Subjects: Music
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Encountering an explosion of new sounds and techniques, composers and music critics in the mid-twentieth century turned to the concept of "texture," borrowed from art history, to describe increasingly complex acoustic phenomena in post-tonal music. Current scholarship adopts the term for a wide variety of repertories, though this indiscriminate usage underscores a certain ambiguity as to texture's exact meaning. While current scholarship allows for its use in connection with a variety of repertories, the stylistic conventions associated with texture remain uncertain. Furthermore, systematic description and critical evaluation do not always proceed in tandem. For example, while heterogeneity <italic>among</italic> textural units is held as the norm in music of the late eighteenth through early twentieth centuries (Meyer 1989; Rosen 1997), interpretive readings of modernist repertory assign this very textural heterogeneity a somewhat pejorative status through qualities of "disjunction" (Abbate 1991; Kramer 1996; Taruskin 1997). These opposing valuations indicate an absence of a general theory of texture that would enhance historical and aesthetic interpretation. In this dissertation I develop a theory of texture in instrumental music that provides an analytic vocabulary unique to music. The theory incorporates a temporal approach to segmentation, clarifies the hierarchic nature of textural details and processes, accounts for stylistic developments in texture, and reconsiders the historiographic presumptions implicit in many discussions of texture. At the core of the theory is a vocabulary developed to elucidate the fundamental oscillation in a musical work between passages of textural stability, which yield units, and instability, which create transitions. Textural units are defined by hierarchic networks that prioritize and order the musical parameters salient in a particular passage. Instead of asserting <italic>a priori</italic> criteria for segmentation in analysis, these hierarchic networks suggest that listening is constantly rediverted onto different parametric categories of the aural perceptual experience. Thus, texture forms an ontologically higher conceptual category that encompasses musical parameters, rather than constituting a parameter itself. Weighted hierarchies of parametric characteristics are a powerful tool for interpretation when they form conventional typologies by which listeners share valuations of salient characteristics. As conventional textures establish type-token relationships, associative and interpretive readings may also be mapped onto textural units. Textural transitions, on the other hand, constitute instability at the moments where one textural hierarchy dissolves and another begins. These textural successions encompass both a materiality (by bringing together two distinct textural identities) as well as a temporality (the meeting of those objects is facilitated by an event in time, rather than through a physical or tangible interface) that helps establish taxonomic categories for their identification. The materiality of textural transitions is conceptualized in terms contradiction and contrariety, while their temporal unfolding is framed as juxtadictive, predictive, and retrodictive. These transitional types are highly indicative of stylistic period in the late eighteenth through early twentieth centuries. Textural units and transitions thus serve to inform hermeneutic endeavors by suggesting conventional associations, indexing previous stylistic periods, and highlighting moments of rupture in analytic discourse where traditional methods of analysis fail to elucidate more ephemeral, qualitative characteristics that contribute to salience. In the final chapter I utilize this semiotic apparatus of texture to reconsider the notion of juxtaposition in <italic>The Rite of Spring</italic>. I argue that the phenomenon of juxtaposition is largely textural, though the stylistic precedents for such procedure and the stable textural hierarchies found in the <italic>Rite</italic> are firmly rooted in the Classical style. By reconsidering the stylistic growth of certain Classical procedures incorporated into Stravinsky's modernist style, my reading of the <italic>Rite</italic> argues that contrary to the <italic>anti</italic>-subjective program of the Rite that Richard Taruskin infamously suggests is coerced upon the listener, the textural discourse of the <italic>Rite</italic> invites an <italic>intersubjective</italic>, critical reading of the events that unfold onstage from distinct perspectives of narrator, Chosen One, and community.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Music

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