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Title:Movement and Shape in the Choral Music of Roger Sessions
Author(s):Gorelick, Brian Lee
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:The study identified significant style characteristics of the choral compositions of Roger Sessions, by an extensive analysis of Session's major choral work, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd, a cantata based on the poem by Walt Whitman. After providing information on the composer's life, literary and teaching contributions, and general compositional style, the essay presented Session's aesthetic views and his belief in an organic compositional method. Because Sessions only valued analyses which did not purport to determine the composer's "intentions", the selection of an appropriate analytical method for this study was required. Jan LaRue's "Growth" approach to analysis, outlined in Guidelines for Style Analysis, was selected as the best means for studying the canata because its design promotes the discovery of the composer's procedures that give his compositions movement and shape. In essence, the LaRue method does not differ with Session's published views on analysis.
In the analysis of Lilacs, efforts were centered around three categories of style information: preferred types of articulations, characteristic dimensional activity and controlling elements that contribute to movement and shape, and text and its relationship to movement and shape. The composition was divided into articulated segments on four levels, and each segment was studied according to six principal categories of observation: Sound (Forces, Texture, Dynamics, Timbre), Melody, Harmony (Tone Row), Rhythm, Text, and Growth (Cadences, Methods of Unification).
Sessions prefers articulations which are close-knit, especially overlapping and elided cadences. More abrupt types are used in ambiguous text-music situations. The main dimension of activity is the paragraph, with 24 clearly articulated segments, followed by the section, with 14 segments. Two active middle dimensions give the piece its formal complexity. Numerous controlling elements contribute to movement and shape, especially the variety of vocal groupings, the three melodic themes and their rhythmic patterns, special timbres, and the use of various traits just once in the cantata, at crucial positions. The tone row occurs in just ten of its forms, with many repetitions and orders. Most of the piece is atonal. There is an almost one-to-one parallel between the strophic structure of the poem and the lengths of the paragraphs.
Issue Date:1985
Description:296 p.
Thesis (D.M.A.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1985.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8521771
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1985

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