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Title: Portfolio of compositions (Canti Sacri, Cantico, …ed erra l’armonia…, Pneuma) and dissertation (An exploration of the connections between music theory and cognition in composition)
Author: Timossi, Alessandro
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This study is an exploration of the integration in composition of theoretical and psychoacoustic properties of pitch and duration; its aims are essentially practical in showing how cognitive research can inform composition, but it also addresses more broadly the value and role cognition can have in the current musical compositional climate. Various contexts for this exploration are discussed: the mediating role analysis has within theory and composition; constraints imposed by aesthetic positions and music theory/pedagogy templates; the role of cognitive psychology in connecting music templates and listening experiences; and the ultimately mythopoetic (Cook, 1992) rather than scientific nature of any such theory/psychology integration. Using Huovinen’s “pitch constellation” approach and Lerdahl’s theory of tonal pitch space, a hierarchical pitch-space is set up for the string piece ed erra l’armonia, developing from pc set 5-22 a non-standard octatonic scale (pc set 8-27) as the basic pitch collection of the piece. Similarly, using the works of Fraisse, Hasty and London, a hierarchical rhythm-space is set up for the orchestral piece Pneuma developing, from the indifference interval in duration, the temporal and metric envelops and the duple and triple subdivisions of the tactus, a three layered metrical structure as the generative rhythmic template of the piece. This is contextualised against the problematic notion of metre in modern art-music. General characteristic of both spaces are discussed: redundancy according to information theory, hierarchy in relation to cognitive opaqueness, salience and association; and elaborational and permutational processes. It is argued that composition needs to bridge, in practice, the gap between music theory and psychology of music, looking beyond their often absolutist positions; that cognitive constrains in music should be seen as opportunities to work compositionally along the mind’s cognitive grains in order to maximise structural and expressive communication; and that at a time of a ‘deregulated’ musical language it is necessary to re-develop cognitive heuristics to secure the connection between compositional choices and listening experiences. Three principles are given as guidelines for the alignment of theoretical and cognitive issues in composition. It is proposed that cognitive analysis should be developed as an independent discipline as well as a compositional tool, and that the connections style/cognition should be looked at more closely to gain a more unified perspective on diverse (and divisive) stylistic musical camps.
Supervisor: Saxton, Robert; Clarke, Eric Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Music ; composition ; music theory ; music analysis ; music cognition ; hierarchy ; pitch space ; rhythm space