This thesis examined works by Earle Brown (1926-2002), John Cage (1912-1992), Morton Feldman (1926-1987) and Christian Wolff (b. 1934), some of whose compositions avoid a fixed and determinate sequence of sounds in performance. This can lead to a redefinition of the relationships between composer, performer and listener, thus changing the role of the musicians and asking for a different attitude on the part of listeners. Such an alteration of the traditional, hierarchical model of music production was motivated, to differing degrees, by aesthetic, political and sociological considerations.
Drawing on diverse music, mostly written between 1950 and 1971, such as Feldman's Projection 1 (1950), Cage's 4'33" (1952) and 0'00" (1962), Brown's Folio (1952-53) and Wolff's Prose Collection (1968-1971, ca. 1986, 1997), this study explored the compositional and notational ideas which have changed the status of the 'work'. Such music aims neither for a reified work, where all parameters are totally fixed, nor for a completely 'free' improvisation.
Instead of trying to establish a historical perspective on this repertoire, the thesis compared the composers' works by focusing on overarching issues. It was shown that the four composers are less homogenous in their aesthetic, their compositional approaches, and in their attempts to redefine the relationships between themselves and the performers of their work, than previously assumed. This research illustrates that, in spite of a common understanding that Brown, Cage, Feldman and Wolff experimented with traditional conceptions of art music, this does not mean that many works negate the traditional functions of composer, performer and listener. However, a number of compositions redefine the idea of a musical 'work', and alter the functions of, and relationships between composer, performer and listener.
(The thesis is available online at http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?did=1&uin=uk.bl.ethos.414650 . You will need to register with EThOS, but it's a free service run by the British Library.)
Looking at Benjamin Britten's War Requiem (1962), Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten (The Soldiers, 1963) and Aubert Lemeland's 10. Symphonie - "Letzte Briefe aus Stalingrad" (10th Symphony - Last letters from Stalingrad, 1998); the possibilities of musical reflections on soldiers, World War II and war in general were examined.
Back to front page
last update: 10 February 2013 | http://home.arcor.de/cgw/research.html