Conversational Composition - Techniques of composition derived from and driven by conversation
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Conversational Composition - Techniques of composition derived from and driven by conversation

  • Author(s): Ozawa, Tomoko
  • Advisor(s): Dobrian, Dobrian CD
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license
Abstract

The metaphor of conversation has often been used with regard to interaction between instruments or sections of instruments in an ensemble. Interaction is a common practice in jazz and other improvised music, while in Western classical music, interactivity is considered implicit in the score. However, the conversational aspect of the music is often left as merely a metaphor, without that comparison being fully explored. In this dissertation, compositional techniques derived from theoretical models of conversation—such as turn-taking, stages of engagement and disengagement, and types of interruption during conversation—are demonstrated through my recent compositions for an ensemble and for solo piano. The intent is not only to explore alternative ways of composition, but also to offer a composing-performance practice that invites performers to be more actively involved in the process of creating music as a collaborative work, while allowing them to fully express their individualities and communicate with each other through music. Hence, the performance itself becomes the manifestation of conversation.This dissertation consists of original compositions along with a written thesis. The original compositions include a series of ensemble pieces, Group Talk No. 1-3 for a quartet performed by Blake Harrison-Lane on violin, Bella Pepke on cello, JoVia Armstrong on percussion and myself on piano, as well as solo works for Disklavier, Phasing and Streams of Talk and a piece for piano and motion sensor MUGIC™, Cricket Wind. The written thesis includes four main chapters. Chapter 1 reviews theories of conversation such as turn-taking models and different phases and stages of conversation. Chapter 2 surveys other composers’ compositional and improvisational approaches, examining scores and concepts that are relevant to topics of conversation. Chapter 3 demonstrates how I translated conversational models into music, using examples from my own musical works. Chapter 4 discusses the rehearsal process and the concert performance of these works, to examine what worked or did not work as expected in terms of the initial purpose of this research, and some lessons learned from this experience.

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