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Context, Time, Texture, and Gesture in George E. Lewis’s "The Will to Adorn"


George E. Lewis’s work has received critical acclaim—he has an extensive discography and catalogue of music, and he has a significant body of scholarly writing on the subjects of composition, improvisation, technology, and race. But despite numerous career accolades and frequent citation of his scholarship (particularly by musicologists), his music has not often been analyzed by theorists, especially his fully-notated concert works. In this dissertation, I provide context around one of his recent concert pieces, The Will to Adorn, and then analyze some of its most salient features: time, texture, and gesture. The contextual work links concepts from much of Lewis’s existing scholarship on black experimentalism to broader patterns of disqualification, a notion drawn from Tobin Siebers. I illustrate how a work like The Will to Adorn is not only representative of the histories out of which it emerged, but also suggests utopian ideals, related to the writing of Fred Moten and Jos� Esteban Mu�oz. In subsequent chapters, I adapt and build upon existing methodologies for analyzing time, texture, and gesture, and apply these directly to Lewis’s work. The analysis of time in The Will to Adorn reveals a global phenomenon of asymmetry across structural dimensions, a deft manipulation of notated and felt tempi, and proportional effects that repeat across temporal scales. Textural analysis reveals the technique by which Lewis constructs a series of moments, and how the textural changes between these moments relate to proportional discoveries, thus offering additional structural insights. Consideration of these analytic discoveries in tandem reinforces how much of the work is constructed to adorn a pivotal moment in which overt references to jazz are revealed. The analytic conclusions are then related back to contextual information, formulating how the construction of a work like this is instructive to performers and might lead to new histories in experimental music.

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