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Harmonic Centricity in Philip Glass’ “The Grid” and “Cowboy Rock’n’Roll USA,” an original composition

Aelmore, Matthew/ D (2015) Harmonic Centricity in Philip Glass’ “The Grid” and “Cowboy Rock’n’Roll USA,” an original composition. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Harmonic Centricity in Philip Glass’ “The Grid”
and “Cowboy Rock’n’Roll USA,” an original composition
Matthew Aelmore, PhD
University of Pittsburgh, 2015
This dissertation analyzes the harmonic syntax of Philip Glass’ music for the scene “The Grid,”
from the 1982 Godfrey Reggio film Koyaanisqatsi. Chapter 1 focuses on the five harmonic
cycles, which are presented in twenty-one harmonic sections. Due to the effects of repetition,
Glass’ harmonic cycles are satiated from the relationships of consonance and dissonance that
characterize tonal harmony. The five harmonic cycles, which appear in twenty-one sections, are
analyzed in terms of the type of harmonic centricity they assert: tonally harmonic centricity,
contextually asserted harmonic centricity, and no harmonic centricity. The intervallic motion of
triads in these harmonic cycles is described by their organization in a symmetrically organized
pitch space.

Chapter 2 shows how “The Grid” is organized under a three-part structure due to the
constant fluctuation of rhythmic, metric, and orchestrational textures. The fluctuating context of
these textures supply the dramatic charge and discharge of textural intensification, which allows
for a sense of directional volition in the music that builds and releases between the work’s three
parts. Special attention is paid to the modulations between harmonic sections, which feature
momentary effects of cyclic conjunction and instances of atonal prolongation. The analysis ends
by introducing a possible reading of a quotidian narrative of the everyday activities of the late
1970’s working class American, based on the interaction of the musical structures described in
the analysis and the themes of the imagery used in the film.

The second part of this dissertation is an original composition, Cowboy Rock’n’Roll USA,
an experimental music theatre production composed through an extensive collaborative process
between composer and performers. This piece is scored for soprano, flute, clarinet, country
singer, and audio/visual technician and was premiered in Stuttgart, Germany in June 2014.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Aelmore, Matthew/
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWilliams, Amyamywill@pitt.eduAMYWILL
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrewanwein@pitt.eduANWEIN
Committee MemberMoe, Ericemoe@pitt.eduEMOE
Committee MemberLandy, Marciamlandy@pitt.eduMLANDY
Date: 15 June 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 March 2015
Approval Date: 15 June 2015
Submission Date: 15 April 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 125
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Minimalism, Philip Glass, Koyaanisqatsi, Film Music, Repetition in Music, Post-Tonal Harmony
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2015 15:35
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:27


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