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Variations: Four Studies in the Aesthetics, History, and Performance of Indeterminate Music


This dissertation investigates the turn to “open form” and “indeterminacy” among composers worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s. Looking first to the music of Anton Webern, this study traces the origins of a musical aesthetic that prioritized compositional systems and became a foundation for the exploration of open form techniques after World War II. The remainder of this study focuses on John Cage’s flexible, score-producing tools, Fontana Mix, Cartridge Music, and Variations II, examining the ways these works define themselves in spite of their inherent multiplicity. Their complex relationship with interpretation and performance is examined through the realizations of John Cage and David Tudor in addition to my own recent experiences as an interpreter of this music.

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