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Title: Portfolio of compositions and commentary
Author: Coenen-Rowe, Lewis
ISNI:       0000 0004 8505 2458
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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Contemporary classical music is often accused of abandoning engagement with the listening experience in the pursuit of abstract ideals (Britten 1998:116-123, Cardew 1974, McClary 1989) and it has been frequently suggested that the more a work of art departs from convention the more its communicative capabilities are compromised (Adorno, 1947, Babbitt 1958, Greenberg 1961). However, it is my conviction that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In this thesis I strived to find ways of engaging with listening as part of my compositional process and write music that could depart from expected norms without substantially compromising its ability to communicate, particularly with non-specialist listeners. The compositions in this portfolio embody various techniques for attempting this, informed by the concept of ‘habitus’ and semiotic theory. The ensemble piece 'Peeled Eyes' takes its inspiration from the darkly comic, absurdist character of Berlin cabaret songs of the 1920s, applying aspects of 'topic theory' to produce different types of rapid musical contrasts and 'troping' to enable instability between the serious and the ironic. The 'Suite for Cello and Viola da Gamba' is written for a performer who switches between the two instruments. I will discuss it here in terms of ‘gesture’, musical components facilitating indexical and iconic impressions of space and movement through musical means, as a match for the physicality of performance. The song cycle 'Ghosts and Children' sets poems that deal with subject of either birth and childhood as well as aging and death. I’ll focus here on how this cycle gave me the chance to experiment with how the devices of ‘topic’ and ‘gesture’ could work in combination with text. 'Anhedoniac', for twelve strings and piano, applies concepts of topic and gesture as a way of approaching overall form, focussing on gradual processes of change within a very limited set of basic materials. The chamber opera 'The Storm' is based on a short story by Kate Chopin. The composition of this piece involved a specific emphasis on how carriers of musical meaning can interact with linguistic meaning and interact with ideas of narrative in dramatic music. 'I’m terribly sorry but I can’t escape the impression that this is all overwhelmingly pointless' is an ensemble piece that thematises futility and despondency. I shall discuss here how I used this piece to explore ideas around the portrayal of virtual spaces in music.
Supervisor: Milstein, Silvina Raquel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available