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Time Travel: Musical Metrics in Elliott Carter's Eight Pieces for Four Timpani


Elliot Carter's Eight Pieces for Four Timpani are landmarks in the canon of solo

timpani literature. They remain innovative in their use of extended techniques, multiple timbres, and musical manipulation of time. Some resources that analyze the Eight Pieces include practical information such as how to count a particular metric modulation, or suggest a certain sticking pattern for a challenging passage. Other studies chart the complexity of Carter's pulse groupings, or the tempo ratios behind the metric modulations. This dissertation will strike a balance between the practical and the theoretical, highlighting the relevance to the performer of numerous variables within the musical score. Through the use of accents, time signatures, note groupings, and drum patterns, Carter reveals implied pulses, in-tempo accelerations, transitional meters and other time-related elements throughout the Eight Pieces. These elements will be examined, and the terms straight shifting (SS), altered shifting (AS), and layered shifting (LS) will be applied to Carter's process of metric modulation in an effort to simply the thought process for the performer, while also exploring the musical phrasing related to these transitions. Because the Eight Pieces expanded the language and technique of the timpanist, they are also examined musically from various other perspectives, including that of the multiple percussionist, drum set player, music theorist, and problem solver. Finally, concepts introduced in the dissertation will be applied to an analysis of Saëta and March, including an examination of how Carter's musical metrics contribute to an overall sense of form and musical effect.

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