THE ART OF MELD: PITCH ORGANIZATION AND MOTIVIC TRANSFORMATIONS IN JOAN TOWER’S MUSIC FOR CLARINET
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Joan Tower is an award-winning American composer, best known for her orchestral and chamber music. Her music is widely performed and is well liked by performers and audiences alike. Her three solo works for clarinet—Wings for solo clarinet (1981), Fantasy…those harbor lights for clarinet and piano (1983), and the Clarinet Concerto (1988)—have become standards in the clarinet repertoire. Tower herself is widely anthologized, and many scholars have researched the background of and influences on specific pieces. Other researchers have discussed the performative aspects of her pieces and examined her works by tracking the “Energy Line” of a piece, a technique devised by Tower herself. However, little scholarship explores the compositional techniques that are prevalent throughout her oeuvre, or the way that pitch is treated in her works. Further, there is only one published scholarly article by Judith Lochhead (1992) examining Tower’s works. In an attempt to fill the gap in literature about Tower’s music—more specifically her three solo works for clarinet—this document explores the compositional processes used and similarities among the three works and examines how motivic development and pitch content structure Tower’s works. This document defines the formal construction of each work and discusses how that form is articulated by pitch emphasis, collections used, and the statement or development of thematic and motivic material. It examines the transitional moments between phrases and sections in terms of what I call “meld” in an attempt to more clearly define what other scholars and Tower herself has described as an “organic” compositional process.
- OU - Dissertations