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Displaced Spaces, Shocks, Negations: A Musical and Gestural Analysis of Stefan Wolpe's Studies for Piano, Part I (1946-48) and its Implications for Performance

The core project of this dissertation is a musical and gestural analysis of Studies, Part I: Displaced Spaces, Shocks, Negations, A New Sort of Relationship in Space, Pattern, Tempo, Diversity of Actions, Interactions and Intensities (1946-48) by post-tonal composer Stefan Wolpe (1902-72). The analytical methods consist of Set Class analysis (Allen Forte), the Effort Shape analysis of gesture (Rudolf von Laban), and the Time and Tone analysis of accordion performance (Joseph Macerollo).
Wolpe played a leading role in the emergence of abstract expressionism among the painters, poets, dancers and composers of New York in the mid to late 1940s.Wolpe’s oeuvre reveals a unique way of composing in the post-tonal era. Chapter 1 provides the historical and stylistic contextualization of this particular study Displaced Spaces. Chapter 2 is concerned with the musical analysis, presented as pitch class and shape analysis. By nature, Wolpe’s pieces are best described as very physical, which explains the rationalization for the application of the gestural analysis in chapter 3. The Effort Shape graphic notation method by Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958) widely used in dance is applied to the musical gestures in Wolpe’s score. Wolpe’s overall title for the series of studies, Music for Any Instrument (1944-49), leaves the choice of instrument to the performer; as these studies require a polyphonic instrument, the classical accordion seems an appropriate choice. Laban’s principles as applied to Wolpe are compared to Macerollo’s Time and Tone analysis to implement gesture on one specific instrument. Battle Piece, a composition for piano solo which he began in 1943 is central to a change in Wolpe’s development: After finishing the first three movements of the piece, Wolpe explored new ideas in the study Displaced Spaces. The degree of coherence between the later parts of Battle Piece and Displaced Spaces is presented in chapter 4 focussing on new techniques that Wolpe was able to formulate through this “detour”. Chapter 5 as a conclusion brings together results from the set theory and the gestural analysis of this particular work in order to bridge the gap between the disciplines of music theory, performance and dance.
Date07 August 2013
CreatorsHenning, Ina
ContributorsWalter, Cameron
Source SetsLibrary and Archives Canada ETDs Repository / Centre d'archives des thèses électroniques de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
Detected LanguageEnglish

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