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Analyzing the Music of Living Composers (and Others) β“˜

PART I: PROCESS IN THE MUSIC OF LIVING COMPOSERS

Part I explores β€œProcess in the Music of Living Composers.” It opens with Brent Yorgason’s exploration of compositional procedures in Michael Torke’s Telephone Book, which range from techniques derived from minimalism to cyclical patterns of Stravinsky, Brahmsian motivic transformations, the harmonic and rhythmic language of jazz, and melodic riffs derived from rock and pop. Yorgason explains how Torke speeds up and combines musical processes to create momentum, and he asserts that Torke’s profusion of as well as treatment of these processes reflects postminimalism.

The recurring theme of motivic transformation, now understood through the lens of Schoenberg’s theoretical work, also forms the basis for Andrew Gades’s study of Joan Tower’s Purple Rhapsody. Gades not only describes the motivic processes that give the work coherence, but accounts for the unique roles they play within different formal sections of the work. After identifying the motivic β€œseeds,” Gades examines how motivic deployment articulates formal divisions throughout Purple Rhapsody. His essay considers other form-delineating elements, such as pitch collection, tempo, texture, and timbre. Gades also describes Tower’s gradual transformation of rhythmic and melodic motives as a means of lending coherence to Purple Rhapsody, and he explains how the main theme’s dual characterβ€”both static and dynamicβ€”is paralleled at multiple levels of the piece to generate drama and long-range momentum.

The focus then turns to Arvo PΓ€rt’s music, as Erik Heine investigates the processes that generate the early tintinnabuli work Arbos. Relying on the composer’s own comments put forth in Paul Hillier’s Arvo PΓ€rt, Heine defines and illustrates the tintinnabuli method as being based on a diatonic melody voice (M-voice) and a tintinnabuli voice (T-voice), which is always a note of the tonic triad; he points out that in relation to the melody voice, the T-voice can assume different positions such as above or below and first or second position. Heine then goes on to show how the narrative portrayed by the triple mensuration canon in Arbos has continued to set that work apart from PΓ€rt’s other tintinnabuli compositions.

Part I concludes by introducing readers to the musical language of the Belgian composer Willem Ceuleers, whose steadily growing output thus far includes over 780 works. In addition to relaying the composer’s own remarks about decisions made prior to and throughout the compositional process, Timothy Pack demonstrates Ceuleers’ skill and stylistic breadth by examining four works: Stabat sancta Maria, op. 655; Requiem, op. 735; Cantata voor zondag Trinitatis, op. 610; and Orgelmis voor het Heilig Hart van Jezus, op. 688. Pack explains how Ceuleers masterfully incorporates an extensive array of styles spanning the last eight centuries and cutting across several genres, including vocal and purely instrumental. Pack’s essay shows how Ceuleers uses each earlier style as one of many compositional parameters for creating, in his own musical language and in his own meta-style, a new work for today’s listeners to enjoy.
β€”Tim S. Pack

Jack Boss, Brad Osborn, Tim S. Pack and Stephen Rodgers
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