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Agential Exploration of Tragedy and Irony in Post-1945 Orchestral Works

Title: An Agential Exploration of Tragedy and Irony in Post-1945 Orchestral Works.
Name(s): Lee, Richard C., author
Kraus, Joseph Charles, 1955-, professor directing dissertation
Gontarski, S. E., university representative
Buchler, Michael Howard, 1966-, committee member
Jones, Evan Allan, committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Music, degree granting college
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Doctoral Thesis
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2017
Publisher: Florida State University
Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (234 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This analytic dissertation explores tragic and ironic narratives in post-1945 orchestral works through the lens of musical agency and critical theory. For the purposes of this study, I define musical narrative as any sequencing of musical events mediated by agency in which a musical story emerges that underscores the sequence of musical events. My definition and overall methodology for musical narrative follows the work of Lawrence Kramer, Michael Klein, and Byron Almén as I explore tragedy and irony in three large-scale compositions composed after World War II. From Kramer, I break down the narrative process into three components: (1) narrativity, what generates a narrative account; (2) narratography, the discoursing of a narrative; and (3) narrative, the musical story that accompanies the discourse. From Klein (and others), I borrow concepts from intertextuality, critical theory, literary theory, and philosophy to inform these musical stories. Finally, from Almén, I take the tragic narrative archetype as an organizational analytical tool in my analyses. The primary narrativity in each analysis is a form of musical agency, and each analysis questions the role of agency in the interpretation of tragic musical stories in these post-1945 works. For the purposes of this study, musical agency is defined as a perceived entity's ability to interact with its environment, often emerging as personification of musical events. Scholars differ on how agencies interact: whether they have volition and intention, whether they arise as a singular subjectivity, what kind of space they inhabit, etc. While some depict musical agency as a messy endeavor, others aim to provide a structure for its interpretation. As an organizing principle, I use Seth Monahan's four agential classes to focus my discussion. Each chapter generally addresses one of the following: (1) the individuated element (notes, harmonies, themes), (2) the work-persona (the personification of the whole piece), (3) the fictional composer (the being postulated by the analyst as the controlling author of a work), and (4) the analyst. Hence, after an introduction, each of the succeeding chapters of this dissertation focuses on one agential class as a guiding narrativity. I bring narrative and agency together by borrowing ideas from literary theory, psychoanalysis, and philosophy. In chapter two I explore the agential class of the work-persona in Krzysztof Penderecki's Third Symphony, in which the work-persona laments and dies twice, yielding a scenario described by Slavoj Žižek as the "two deaths." In that reading one death is real and the other is symbolic, and the ordering of the deaths in Penderecki's symphony leads the analyst to read the scenario tragically. The two deaths generate the interpretation of death as a master signifier, borrowing from the work of Jacques Lacan. The master signifier then guides the analytical decisions that are made. In my analysis of Thomas Adès's Asyla in chapter three, fictional composer agencies are locked in a power struggle, leading to a reading that evokes Michel Foucault's conceptualizations of power and panopticism. Investigating the individuated element agency in chapter four, I posit that George Rochberg's conservative employment of serial technique in his Symphony No. 2 leads to a reading of belatedness that supplements its commentary on the tragedy of the Second World War. My final chapter serves as an analysis of the analyst, the highest ranking of Monahan's agential classes. Here I describe the three analyses of the preceding chapters as three component parts that contribute to an analyst's machine, following the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. The analyst's machine serves as a departure point for an exploration of analytical subjectivity. I begin that inquiry by positioning the analyst in a virtual space (as opposed to an actual space). I next parallel Lacan's formulation of the identity with the analytical process, tracing how analysts build their identity through a combination of received components, resulting in a fractured subjectivity. Finally, I bring back the idea of fiction (from the fictional composer agency) to establish a fictional analyst who is a Deleuzian assemblage of refrains and avatars that carries out an analysis. The goal of this dissertation is to uncover narrative approaches to post-1945 music by combining familiar analytical tools with interdisciplinary methodologies. Focusing on a certain agential class as a narrativity, the individual analyses of tragic works by Penderecki, Adès, and Rochberg lead to a reconsideration of the analyst in the concluding chapter—and that chapter serves as a starting point for future analytical and theoretical endeavors.
Identifier: FSU_2017SP_Lee_fsu_0071E_13774 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester 2017.
Date of Defense: March 23, 2017.
Keywords: Agency, Narrative, Penderecki, Rochberg, Subjectivity, Thomas Ades
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Joseph Kraus, Professor Directing Dissertation; Stanley Gontarski, University Representative; Michael Buchler, Committee Member; Evan Jones, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Music
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Host Institution: FSU

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Lee, R. C. (2017). An Agential Exploration of Tragedy and Irony in Post-1945 Orchestral Works. Retrieved from