The highwayman : composition and analysis of a symphonic poem

Rucci, Peter John
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2013]
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For centuries now, music composers have found literary works to be great inspiration for compositions as small as piano solos or as large as symphonies. Such renowned composers as Beethoven, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schoenberg, and Wagner used literary works from authors such as Byron, Dante, Goethe, Hugo, Poe, Schiller, and of course Shakespeare, to derive inspiration for their music. For example, Liszt's Hamlet, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Dvorak's Othello, and R. Strauss' MacBeth are just a few symphonic pieces based on works by Shakespeare alone. However, after the first few decades of the 20th century, especially during the advent of serialism, indeterminancy, and minimalism, program music fell out of favor as a compositional genre. So it was with some trepidation that I elected to write my thesis using a seemingly outdated technique. That being said, there is the constantly recurring dilemma of composing new music without using old techniques such as functional tonal harmony or 12-tone rows, or without using such forms as sonata or rondo. The orchestral work submitted in this thesis is through-composed and reflects the chronology of events in an epic poem. While it is not an original form, it is certainly one that not only allows the composer a great deal of freedom, but is also relevant to any portrayal of events. One would not want to first tell the end of a story and work randomly backwards, correct? Thus the form used in my work would have to be deemed relevant. The harmonic or rhythmic structure, however, must be an attempt to be new and unique. This attempt has to be tempered with hope that the listener will enjoy or at least appreciate the work. There lies the quandary--to compose music in an advanced style while still remaining accessible to the listener. Hopefully my work will meet these expectations. In the chapters below, I will share a brief history of program music and present various methods composers have used to shape their music to reflect the literary sources that inspired their compositions. Additionally, I will introduce the various themes I used to represent the key players of "The Highwayman," and will discuss how I manipulated and transformed those themes throughout my composition. I will also discuss the harmonic and extensive rhythmic language used in the piece to make a century-old poem relevant to a 21st-century music composition.
M.Mus. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
symphonic poems
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Theses for the degree of Master of Music (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Music.
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