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Notation as a compositional tool : three exemplary pieces


The relationship between imagination and image has significant influences on a composer's engagement with musical creation. There is more to this than simply recognizing notation as an outlet for creative energy: it is also a process that is not without certain resistances, simultaneously freeing and limiting one's imaginative capacities. On the one hand, musical expression and meaning might be compromised by the visual concreteness that is necessarily a part of notational processes; on the other hand, notational images might carry the potential for previously unimaginable musical possibilities. Throughout the history of Western music, composers have dealt with the creative potentialities of notation--that is, the complex relationship between sound and image--in a variety of ways, balancing the freedoms and limitations of imagining and drawing to different degrees. My own compositional endeavors have tended toward fairly dynamic relationships between visual- and sonorous-based streams of decision-making, generally shaped into an overall process that begins with two entirely independent sets of ideas--one visual and one sonorous--and then works toward a dialectical resolution of this fundamental abstraction, always with the manual labor of notation forming an essential component of the decision-making process. This dissertation consists of three examples of such process: three individual works for varying instrumental forces that all began with the same visual impetus--a pencil drawing that functions as an abstract notation. The processes of decisionmaking that branch out from this starting point lead to three independent sonorous works, exploring issues of translation while simultaneously opening up a vast potential for depth of compositional engagement and richness of final product. The uniqueness of each work is evidence of the creative power of notational labor as both instigator of musical imagination and solidifier of musical structure and material

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