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Musical Narratives: Studies in Time and Motion

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Publication details

JournalContemporary Music Review
DatePublished - 26 Nov 2014
Issue number4
Original languageEnglish


The central theme of this volume concerns the variety of ways in which a number of composers engage with the concept of musical timescale. After all, temporal processes lie at the heart of contemporary compositional practice. Traditionally, tonality was a powerful force in articulating musical time, while post-tonal repertoire raises new creative challenges of how to construct, articulate and convey a sense of narrative within a modernist idiom. This collection of articles seeks to examine these issues and to offer a variety of insights into the different ways that new music may address matters such as containment and expansiveness, fragmentation and continuity, stasis and dynamism. A range of different viewpoints emerging from individual composer case studies complement more general theoretical discussions.
In a sense, this topic is too large to be accommodated within the confines of a single volume. Consequently, no real attempt has been made to ensure some kind of coverage. Instead we have assembled some six versatile perspectives on this over-arching theme, and these move progressively from the general to the particular. An introductory article, by way of a broad study of the physical theories of musical time (Michael Rofe), is followed by an overview of how this relates to new music in Finland, through a consideration of selected orchestral works by Magnus Lindberg (Tim Howell). Thereafter, a series of case studies focus on particular aspects of timescale as relevant to these individual composers. The issues being addressed include: ‘speed and slowness’ in Gerald Barry (Daniel March); ‘continuity’ in John Adams (Richard Powell); ‘fragmentation’ in György Kurtág (Martin Scheuregger), and ‘balance’ in Toru Takemitsu (Mark Hutchinson). Overall, this calculated eclecticism provides both breadth and depth, exploring the articulation of musical time through a combination of compositional process, analytical discovery and listener perceptions.

    Research areas

  • Time, new music, analysis, motion

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