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Title: David Lang's Archive
Authors: Aschheim, Victoria
Advisors: Morrison, Simon
Contributors: Music Department
Subjects: Music history
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the technical, aesthetic, and ethical consequences of musical minimalism through the work of the American composer, David Lang (b. 1957). The pioneers of this style sought to demystify the inner structures of music, induce psychoacoustic effects, and efface authorial ego through rhythmic and harmonic stasis and repetition. I locate the evolution of this aspiration toward, as I describe it, musical transparency, and of this preoccupation with generating order through patterns, in Lang’s work. In Lang’s music, structure and perceptible process coalesce in what I refer to as the condition of seriality, or, as I broadly define it, differential repetition. The dissertation offers terms that articulate the ends to which Lang pushes seriality as an artistic strategy and a structural formation of perception. These terms emanate from the concept-metaphor I propose to describe his work: the archive. Lang’s compositional practice driven by questioning, research, and accretion of knowledge – cultural and emotional – and his musical language founded on repetition and permutation, are, I propose, analogs for mnemonic processes: inquiry, selection, accumulation. The theoretical framework of memory – its images and operations – and its material and philosophical manifestations in the idea of the archive provide resources for understanding Lang’s music. I conclude that he has renovated musical seriality after minimalism; in his hands, seriality becomes a means of inclusion and documentation of information and subjectivity in its multitudes. His syntax creates a template for egalitarian action and remembrance, and for the invitation to listeners’ participation under the drastic conditions of live performance. Lang reveals new ways in which musical patterns can sensitize listeners to forms of difference and relatedness, both aesthetic and social. Chapter 1 recounts what I am calling Lang’s brutal beginning, when he wrote self-consciously difficult music about violence. Dialectical forces within the activity of memory – construction and dissolution – emerge in his early work. The three other chapters each present a term to characterize one of Lang’s archival practices: laboratory – for works in which he stages experiments, musical and social; inventory – for his compositions that take the form of lists; and actuality – for his constellation of past and present.
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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