The Post-Minimalist Symphony: Large-Scale Form in Music by John Adams, Philip Glass, and Aaron Jay Kernis
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractMy thesis focuses on the materials and structure of the first movements of three large-scale symphonic works by prominent minimalist and post-minimalist composers. I selected these composers and their works because each indicates a different side of both minimalism and symphonic composition. First, John Adams’ Harmonielehre features the repeated chords typical of the minimalist style as well as repetitive motor rhythms, but they do not follow a strict repetition scheme. In addition, the structure of Harmonielehre is more appropriate to the sonata-allegro format of the first movement of a symphony compared to the other two works. Next, Philip Glass re-interpreted Low by David Bowie and Brian Eno with his signature minimalist/repetitive treatment but in an orchestral arrangement. Symphony No. 1 (“Low”) features surprising polytonal complexities, long subtle rhythmic cycles, and his most basic minimalist technique: the additive process. As in many other minimalist pieces, this piece exploits one form of continuity by slowly growing from a sparse rhythmic framework to a structure that also includes contrasting sections. Finally, the “Continuous Wave,” the first movement of Symphony in Waves, by Aaron Jay Kernis, makes use of another continuous form through an uninterrupted rhythmic pattern flowing from the beginning to the end of the first movement. As the youngest of the three composers, the influence of his teacher, John Adams, brings variety and dynamic energy to his music.
Degree ProgramGraduate College