Piano Research Paper Topics

Music of the Twentieth Century II: Music After 1945 Syllabus
Musi 4365: Spring 2006 (section #12889)

Dr. Tim Koozin
Moores School of Music
University of Houston

STUDENT PAPERS: ABSTRACTS, OUTLINES AND BIBLIOGRAPHIES

Nick Frederick
3/8/06
Copland: Piano Variations and Piano Fantasy

Copland's Piano Fantasy is a serially composed piece that caught my attention by its almost tonal sounding use of fourths and fifths that reminded me of his earlier popular works.   I was kept interested while listening to the work by his ability to create seemingly longer musical phrases then other serial composers of the time.   I intend to research his serial compositional techniques in the Piano Fantasy (1957) and explain his compositional evolution by comparing with the earlier Piano Variations (1930.) I will discuss how both these works fit into the category of "Absolute Music", and write about how these pieces show a different side to a well known composer that has often been categorized as writing only simple and popular music, that would appeal to a wide audience.

Outline

  • Copland's Education
  • History and Compositional style of Piano Variations
  • History and Compositional style of Piano Fantasy
  • Comparison between Piano Variations and Piano Fantasy
  • Conclusion

Bibliography

Articles:

Berger, Arthur. "Aaron Copland 1900-1990" Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 30,       No.1 (Winter 1992) pp.296-298.

Cole, Hugo. "Notes on Copland" Tempo, No. 77 (Summer 1966), pp.9-15.

Copland, Aaron. "Piano Fantasy" Tempo, No. 46 (Winter, 1958), pp.12-14.

Kay, Norman. "Aspects of Copland's Development" Tempo, No. 95 (Winter 1970), pp.23-29.

Starr, Lawrence. "Copland's Style" Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 19 No. ½. (Autumn, 1980) pp.67-89.

Books:

Armstrong, Robin and Robertson, Martha. Aaron Copland-A Guide to Research . New York: Routledge, 2001.

Butterworth, Neil. The Music of Aaron Copland. New York: Universe Books, 1986.

Copland, Aaron and Perlis, Vivian. Copland Since 1943 . New York: Liveright Publishing, 1989.

Dickinson, Peter. Copland Connotations. Rochester, New York: Boydell and Brewer Inc, 2002.

Dorbin, Arnold. Aaron Copland, His Life and Times. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co. 1967.


Julia Hatch

Abstract

“I became a painter because I wanted to raise painting to the level of poignancy of music and poetry” (Johnson, 45).   These words of abstract expressionist painter, Mark Rothko, begin to illuminate the interconnection of painting and music in the late twentieth century.   Morton Feldman, a successful composer of the same period, furthers this idea in describing his own work, “I prefer to think of my work as: between categories. Between Time and Space.   Between painting and music” (Friedman, 89).   In my term paper, I intend to explore the influence of Mark Rothko's paintings upon Morton Feldman's music.   In particular, I would like to investigate the connection between the art and architecture of Rothko's Chapel with Morton Feldman's piece, Rothko Chapel. As Morton Feldman “gathered a number of impressions that he would build into his music” by “reflecting on the place, the painter, and the art”, through my own reflection on both the chapel's art work and the music itself, in addition to an analysis of the artists' process, form, and technique, I will explore the manner in which Mark Rothko's art shaped the musical work of Morton Feldman.

Outline

•  Introduction

A.   Brief History of The Rothko Chapel (the building)

  • Commission of Mark Rothko's paintings and building
  • Commission of Morton Feldman's tribute to Rothko, Rothko Chapel
  • Ideas behind both projects

B.   Thesis: Influence of Rothko's Chapel on Feldman's Piece- Feldman's work mirrors the Chapel's art

1. Rothko's abstract expressionist style

2. Impact of visual art on Feldman – association with expressionist artists in New York

3. Feldman's composing style

  • Feldman and Rothko's relationship
  • Detailed Study of Rothko Chapel Paintings
  • process
  • inner experience
  • use of color and lighting
  • repetition
  • form
  • stasis/flux
  • physical relation of viewer and art
  • Etc….

•  Detailed Study of Rothko Chapel by Morton Feldman

  • composition process
  • inner experience
  • use of color and dynamics
  • repetition
  • form
  • stasis/flux
  • physical relation of audience and music
  • treatment of melody
  • instrumentation
  • time
  • Etc…(include musical analysis)

•  Feldman's Impressions of Chapel translated to music

•  compare aspects of II and III

•  Description of Performance of Piece in the Chapel

•  Conclusion

•  Restate Thesis

•  Summarize Points

•  Pose Further Questions

Bibliography

Articles:

Baldridge, Wilson. “ Morton Feldman: One Whose Reality Is Acoustic,” Perspectives of New Music, 21, No. 1/2. (Autumn, 1982): 112-113.

Heintze, James, ed. Perspectives on American Music since 1950. New York: Garland, 1999.

Hughes, Edward. “Softly, Softly: E.D.H. Reflects on the Fragile Music of Morton Feldman,” The Musical Times, 137, No. 1845. (Nov., 1996): 21-23.

Johnson, Steven: ‘Feldman, Morton', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 1 March 2006), <http://www.grovemusic.com>

Johnson, Steven. “Rothko Chapel and Rothko's Chapel,” Perspectives of New Music, 32, No. 2. (Summer, 1994): 6-55.

Orton, Fred. “Morton Feldman: Interview by Fred Orton and Gavin Bryars,” Studio International, 5, No. 984 (1976): 244-48.

Books:

 Anfam, David. Mark Rothko: The Chapel Commission. Houston: Menil Collection, 1996.

Barnes, Susan. The Rothko Chapel : An Act of Faith . Austin:   University of Texas Press, 1989

De Menil, Domonique. The Rothko Chapel. Houston: Yupon, 1979.

Friedman, B.H., ed. Give My Regards to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman. Cambridge: Exact Change, 2000.

Key, Susan, ed.   American Mavericks. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Nodelman, Sheldon. The Rothko Chapel Paintings : Origins, Structure, Meaning. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.

Recording:

Morton Feldman, Rothko Chapel; Why Patterns?, UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, San Francisco: New Albion Records NA039CD, 1991.


Elliott Carter's Variations for Orchestra

Abstract:

Elliott Carter's Variations for Orchestra was written for the Louisville Orchestra in 1955.   The Louisville Orchestra had an unusually small string section and Carter had to find a way to write the music so that the full-sized wind section and the smaller string section would sound equally balanced.   He did this by giving the string section solo lines in some movements in order to give the listener's ear the illusion of a more important and up-front melody line.   Another technique Carter used when writing this composition was metric modulation.    This gave the piece motion and fluidity.   I would like to explore this technique more thoroughly and more in depth to discover how he could use both an accelerando and ritardando at the same time to create this fluid motion.   I would also like to see what influenced Carter as he wrote this piece, whether outside influences like other composers and their techniques had much influence or if he was bound by the size of the orchestra when writing this composition.  

Outline:

History:

  • History of Elliott Carter
  • Influences on Elliott Carter's music
  • History of Variations for Orchestra

Analysis:

  • Analysis of Variations for Orchestra
  • Discuss techniques used by Carter
  • Discuss metric modulation

Conclusion

Bibliography:

Articles:

Bernard, Jonathan W. “The Evolution of Elliott Carter's Rhythmic Practice” Perspectives of New Music , Vol. 26, No. 2. (Summer, 1988), pp. 164-203.

Carter, Elliott. “ Shop Talk by an American Composer” The Musical Quarterly , Vol. 46, No. 2, (Apr., 1960), pp. 189-201.

Goldman, Richard Franko. “ The Music of Elliott Carter” The Musical Quarterly , Vol. 43, No. 2. (Apr., 1957), pp. 151-170.

Schiff, David “Carter as Symphonist. Redefining Boundaries” The Musical Times , Vol. 139, No.1865. (Winter, 1998), pp. 8-13.

Schiff, David. “Carter in the Seventies” Tempo , New Ser., No. 130. (Sep., 1979), pp. 2- 10.

Books:

Cone, Edward T. The Composer's Voice. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974.

Edwards, Allen. Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds: A Conversation with Elliott Carter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1971.

Lidov, David. Is Language a Music? Writings on Musical Form and Signification. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Schiff, David. The Music of Elliott Carter. New York: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Stone, Else. The Writings of Elliott Carter: An American Composer Looks at Modern Music. London: Indiana University Press, 1977.


Kevin Vanderburg

20 th Century Music History

Abstract:

            I will be doing a paper called “Nondialetive Structures in the Music of Philip Glass”.   I shortened the title from a more complex one to allow me the freedom to explore the topic in a freer way.   In this paper, I will discuss some of the minimalist techniques that Philip Glass uses – particularly in   “Music in 12 Parts” “Strung Out” “1+1” and “Einstein on the Beach.”   This will include examples from the literature of additive and subtractive structures as a way to create form, as in “Music in 12 Parts.”   I will be examining “Einstein on the Beach” as an allegorical LSD experience as illustrated by the La So Do theme that occurs as the audience enters, and as the work ends.   I will be using philosophical statements by Glass and Robert Wilson to further illustrate the possibility of this being an allegory for such an experience.   In addition, I will be using sources of Timothy Leary's explanations of what happens to the mind during actual psychotropic experiences and the religious nature of such experiences, and that Leary himself did an “Einstein based musical portrait” prior to the release of “Einstein on the Beach”.   I will also be exploring some of Glass's religious and cultural affiliations.

Outline

•  Introduction

•  Nondialectivity

      A.   Introduce and compare nondialective music to its opponant, narritive music.

  1.   Introduce additive structures as an example nondialective minimal device i.e. “Music in 12 Parts.”   I might also introduce “Phasing” as another example of a nondialective device, but Glass doesn't use phasing so my examples will have to come from Reich.
  2. Explain some of the purposes and repercussions of this type of music.   Influence of/by pop music, what the mind experiences as a result of this music.   Labeling as ‘Drug Music.'

•  Einstein on the Beach

A.   Introduce the significance of the work and why it is special

    1.   Introduce the Knee Play (1 st and last movements).  

      C.   Explain the significance of the Droning repetitive bass line.

•  Glass's worldview – Buddhism, Cultural Ties

•  Glass's evolution away from these structures – Symphonies, Violin Concerto

•  Conclusion

Bibliography

Breyers, Anders.   The Voice of Music:   Conversations With Composers of Our Time .   Burlington, VT:   Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2000.

Duckworth, William.   Talking Music:   Conversations with John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson and Five Generations of American Experimental Composers .   New York, NY:   Shirmer Books, 1995.

Kostelantz, Richard, ed. Writings on Glass:   Essays, Interviews and Criticism.   New York, NY:   Schirmer Books, 1997.

Martens, Wim.   American Minimal Music .   White Plains, NY:   Pro/Am Music Resources Inc. 1983.

Maycock, Robert.   Glass:   A Portrait .   London, UK:   Sanctuary Music Publishing, 2002.

Potter, Keith.   Four Musical Minimalists:   La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass .   Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Richardson, John.   Singing Archeology:   Philip Glass's Akhenaton .   Hanover, NH:   Weslayan University Press, 1999.

Schwartz, K. Robert.   Minimalists .   London:   Phaidon Music Press Ltd., 1996

Strickland, Edward.   American Composers:   Dialgues on Contemporary Music .   Indianapolis, IN:   Indiana University Press, 1991.

Swan, Claudia, ed.   Perceptible Processes:   Minimalism and the Baroque .   New York:   EOS Music Inc, 1997.

*Other sources have not yet arrived

Quotes to possibly be used from the sources:

Glass:   “My generation grew up in the late sixties.   We all went through the cultural crisis of the sixties.   It was civil rights, pop music, and drugs…We saw that happening to our friends and we asked why they were having all the fun!   It was something very simple like that.”(Duckworth, 337)

“In repetitive music, repetition does not refer to eros and the ego, but to the libido and to the death instinct.   Process and repetition produce a shift from the dialectal principal of reality onto the unconscious level, where external realities are replaced by psychic ones.

            The ecstatic state induced by this music, which could also be called a state of innocence, an hypnotic state, or a religious state, is created by an independent libido, freed of all the restrictions of reality.   Repetitive music only appears to succeed when the listener consciously discards his dialectal way of listening.   Ecstasy in other words can only occur when the ego can let go.”(Martins, 123)

“Repetitive music can lead to psychological regression.   The so-called religious experience of repetitive music can is in fact a camouflaged erotic experienced.   One can speak of a controlled pseudo-satisfaction because the abandoning of dialectal time does not really happen but is only imaginary.   The libido, freed from the external world, turns to the ego to obtain imaginary satisfaction.   Freud defined this as a regression and a “Return to the infantile experience of hallucinatory satisfaction.

            To what extent the ecstatic dimension is consciously pursued and to what extent it may even be the main purpose of composing repetitive music is not clear.   It is certainly one of the reasons for its popularity.   The drug like experience and the imaginary satisfaction are even more obvious in disco music and space-rock, the popular derivatives of repetitive music.   This music at least leaves no room for doubt as to its intention.”(Martins, 124).

Steve Reich:   “Several currently popular modal musics like Indian classical and drug oriented rock and roll may make us aware of minute sound details because in being modal (constant key center, hypnotically droning and repetitious) they naturally focus on these details rather than on key modulation, counterpoint, and other peculiarly western devices.”(Swan, 58).

“As time rolls over the musical phrase or the selected image, it is also rolling over the spectator; it is a “process” selected as a rule for composition and perception.   The initial moment of the spectator's encounter with this art is perhaps not unlike the encounter in special art, where the consciousness feels the necessity to give a ‘yes' or ‘no' to the work.”(Kostelantz, 83).

“The composer writes, “I saw that ideas (social political, religious) could be central to the work.   Though this may not have been seen as much by other people, for me it was a fundamental reorientation of my thinking about my relation to theatre.”(Richardson, 5)

“Actually I try to avoid identity music.   There's already too much identity;   the demand for it has become too oppressive.   I look for things from the opposite viewpoint.   First of all you have to go out and find your own voice, then you have to get rid of it.”(Breyers, 267)

“You cannot take these sounds out of the context in which they are created' they won't mean the same anymore.   But it can happen, it happens all the time.”(Breyers, 273).

Glass:   “Let me put it this way:   with the music of Northern India, you could hear it immediately; it didn't require an analysis to understand it.   To unlock the secrets of Stravinsky took more of an intellectual effort than I was prepared to make at that point in my life.”(Duckworth, 331).

Glass:   “It's about repression, in other words that we personally repress things that challenge our notions of order.   It's part of the progressive displacement of man in the universe.   We start off being the center of the universe with the sun turning around us.   Then it turns out we're going around the sun.   Then it turns out that our solar system is part of a larger galaxy.   Then it turns out that our galaxy isn't even a very important one.”

“The interviews for the present book did not cover Buddhism, and the subject has been kept until the end.   It is a part of his life, not of his music.   It is the way he works, not the work itself”(Maycock, 181).

“Over the years he has met with the Dalai Lama several times and has given performances as a prelude to the Lama's public appearances in New York.”(Maycock, 180).

“Glass spent the 1980s giving freer reign to his expressive aspirations, and certainly “The Voyage”(1992) must be considered as post-minimal (Swan, 10).

“Ultimately Glass admitted ‘It hardly mattered what you thought Einstein on the Beach might “mean”…In the case of Einstein on the beach, the story was supplied by the imaginations of the audience and there was no way for us to predict, even if we wanted to, what the story might be for any particular person.'”(Schwartz, 135).

Robert Wilson talks about Einstein on the Beach:   “You go to the park, you look at the scenery which contains people moving about and sounds changing.   Watch clouds passing by.   Look at the music.   Listen to the pictures.”(Schwartz, 135)


Gerardo Flores-Pacheco
Abstract for the Term Paper

Olivier Messiaen, the bird songs and “Le Merle Noir”

In this paper I want to provide historical background about Messiaen as a composer, and his strong ties to Catholic beliefs. I also want to research information about the social or political situation around him, in that era. Other themes I want to talk in my term paper are Messiaen's interest in bird songs, and how his devotion for GOD was reflected there, within the music. Finally, I will provide information about a specific “Bird Song” composition for flute and piano, called “Le Merle Noir” The black bird; a piece he composed in 1951. I will cover historical background on the piece, and also information about its form, and how the flute and piano ensemble work together, as equal partners, and technical difficulties that this master piece presents.

Bibliography

Books :

Bruhn, Siglind. Messiaen's Language of Mystical Love. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1998.

Hill, Peter. The Messiaen Companion. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1995.

Hill, Peter and Nigel Simone. Messiaen . New haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005.

Hsu, Madeleine. Olivier Messiaen; The Musical Meditator: a Study of the Influence of Liszt, Debussy, and Bela Bartok. London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996.

Johnson, Robert Sherlaw. Messiaen . Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1989.

Nichols, Roger. Messiaen. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Pople, Anthony. Messiaen: Quartuor pour la fin du Temps . United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Rossler, Almut. Contributions to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen . Duisburg, West Germany: Gilles and Francke, 1986.

Samuel, Claude. Conversations with Olivier Messiaen . London: Stainer and Bell, 1976.

Articles:

Nichols, Roger. Messiaen's ‘Le Merle Noir': The Case of a Blackbird in a Historical Pie. The Musical Times ,Vol. 129, No 1750 (Dec, 1988), pp. 648-650.

Internet:

Grove Music Online


Michael Juarez
3/8/06
Paper Outline

The goal of this paper is to take a closer look at Igor Stravinsky's later works.   The pieces "Threni" and "Canticum Sacrum" will be the center for discussion.   Other aspects of this paper will be to trace Stravinsky's use of the twelve tone method in his pieces and his use of musical forms.   Some questions that will be answered in this paper are:   How were these pieces significant to other composers?   What impact did these pieces have on the music world?   When did Stravinsky make the transition to serialism?   What drove Stravinsky to use religious texts in these pieces?   This paper is not simply to analyze, but to enlighten readers on the techniques of a twentieth century composer and how his music adapted to a changing time.

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“Family is everything” is a well-established archaic saying. This is exactly what The Piano Lesson attempts to convey to us. An intriguing yet heartfelt playwright set in the early 1930’s by August Wilson, The Piano Lesson highlights hard-hitting aspects of life such as family, slavery, racism, legacy, vengeance, dreams and a hint of feminism, the principal motif being family and the acceptance of one’s own heritage (58).

The Piano Lesson is actually about the lessons left to the estranged siblings by their ancestors. The piano in the play is a symbol of the past and the future of the Charles family. It stands for a family accepting and owning their past and leveraging their combined strength to beat the odds. The piano teaches Willie and Berniece the importance of a family looking out for one another.

For example, both Berniece and Boy Willie are shown to have conflicting ideas regarding family legacy which were not completely right (Costen, 4). Boy Willie was wrong when he wanted to sell the piano and hand over the family heirloom to a stranger and Berniece was wrong to keep the piano with her, refusing to play it, thereby disrespecting her ancestors. She was unable to wield its power as she refused to accept her family’s history. As both were at odds, Sutter’s ghost silently fed off of their despair and weakness, growing stronger. However, in the final act, when Boy Willie is being attacked by Sutter’s ghost, Berniece accepts her family’s past and plays the piano, yields its power, calling upon her ancestors for help and dispelling Sutter’s ghost.

Realizing and accepting the power of family and its endowments is a rare yet empowering gift, given to us by The Piano Lesson. The piano tells us that family is, without a doubt, everything.

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