Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    From the Yellow River to the Yarra River The Orchestral Works of Chu Wanghua, and their Performance
    Ferguson, John Neil ( 2022)
    The purpose of this research project is to raise awareness of the Melbourne-based Chinese composer, CHU Wanghua (b. 1941; sometimes known in Australia as William Chu) and to explore his orchestral compositions. The focus of the project is on conducting and performing Chu’s orchestral music, which is supported by a study of the composer’s musical influences and stylistic changes, ranging from early studies in China through to his postgraduate studies in Melbourne, as well as his later compositions up to 2019. The PhD comprises a folio of recorded performances conducted by the author (constituting 70% of the PhD project). The folio is accompanied by a dissertation documenting Chu’s life and musical education, and an appendix in which the orchestral works are discussed from a performance perspective that relates to the folio of recordings (constituting 30% of the PhD project). As part of the exploration of Chu’s musical evolution, the dissertation outlines his situation during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) and his role in composing the Yellow River Piano Concerto. The study also considers Chu’s use of Western instruments and compositional techniques, and the extent to which he has maintained a Chinese identity in his music throughout his long career.
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    Composition Folio
    Henry, Thomas Robert ( 2022)
    The thesis consists of a folio of works (Volume 1) and accompanying dissertation (Volume 2) together with audio recordings of each of the folio works. The dissertation is between 20,000 and 25,000 words while the recordings of the folio works has a total duration of 92 minutes. Audio recordings of each of the works is provided, comprising both live and studio recordings. The folio of works consists of chamber and orchestral works of acoustic forces, including (in size of instrumentation); a Second Piano Sonata, a Sonata for flute and piano, a Piano Trio, a quintet for flute/piccolo, Bb clarinet, violin, cello, piano and Chinese finger cymbals (Towards Patmos – after Holderlin) and a work for large orchestra (Visions from the interior – after Fred Williams). The dissertation examines an ongoing creative tension between tradition and modernity in the work of the candidate’s compositional practice, posing the overall question; can a contemporary composer combine historical techniques (including techniques of the 20th century) to create music that communicates to a 21st century audience? Within this overall enquiry, the three research questions are: 1. Can I develop a personal voice while using historically established techniques such as; serial pitch and rhythmic organisation, motivic development, contrapuntal devices and mirror techniques? 2. How does the use of techniques listed above interact with my individual harmonic language? 3. How do extra-musical ideas and influences impact on my musical technique and form? Reflecting on the evolution of the candidate’s practice during candidature, the dissertation (Volume 2) examines this creative tension, and related research questions, in relation to each of the folio works and draws the following conclusions. In response to questions 1 and 2, the candidate has concluded that his exploration of certain specific combinations of ‘historical techniques’ (Question 1), together with a conscious interaction of these techniques with his harmonic language (Question 2) form the key to his personal voice as a composer (Question 1). Within this conclusion, two clear insights emerge. The first is that in using a tone row and serial pitch processes, he increasingly explores new ways of generating and using such material in functionally tonal rather than atonal ways. The second insight is almost the reverse of the first: that when he combines contrapuntal processes with 20th century techniques, he has a strong tendency to create music of a harmonically and rhythmically challenging nature, with unstable textures. In response to question 3 (regarding the influence of extra-musical ideas and influences on the candidate’s musical technique and form) the candidate has concluded that his use of a ‘mirror/inversion’ technique to build overall form now appears to be only one of many available musical responses to the concept of dialectic. In particular, he has developed a broader approach which includes the concept of ‘overcoming struggle’ towards a more organic musical and human flow, as a flexible formal device.
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    Capturing Transience: Modelling Relationships Between Improvised Music Practice and Recording Processes
    McLean, Alistair James ( 2022)
    This research examines the relationship between improvised music practice and recording processes, and in doing so develops and tests new analytical models to better understand how improvised music practitioners undertake recording projects. Prior analytical models of music recording demonstrate multiple ways that recordings may be created and considered, but fail to take into account the diversity of practice in improvised music. By considering the varied nature of contemporary improvised music practise, these existing models are synthesised into a new Documentarian/Idealised model, which asks whether improvised music recordings are best considered as documents of performance events, discrete artistic objects, or a combination of both. Findings from interviews with improvised music practitioners are used to test and further develop the Documentarian/Idealised model, resulting in an expanded model better able to represent the diversity of practice found within improvising music recording projects, referred to as the Intention/Process model. Case studies of two improvised music recording projects are conducted as part of this research project, contributing ninety minutes of new improvised music recordings to be considered alongside the written thesis. These two projects reflect markedly different approaches to recording improvised music, and analysis of their creation examines the wide range of practice that occurs within improvised music recording situations. This research demonstrates that while improvised music recording practise is diverse, a number of commonalities are present, and that the intention and motivation of practitioners may be fluid and change during recording projects, as evidenced by a Multi-stage recording model for examining recording projects. In addition to providing multiple analytical models for use in further research, this study significantly informs both our understanding of how improvised music recording projects are undertaken and how they are perceived by practitioners of improvised music. It further contributes to the ontological understanding of improvised music recordings by arguing that improvisational music practice should not be viewed in opposition to composition or recording, but rather as a generative creative practice that can be utilised in tandem with other activities, and by showing that recordings of improvised music do not possess less improvisational qualities due to their fixed and reproduceable nature.
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    Accessible therapeutic music-making for stroke survivors with significant arm and hand weakness: A mixed-methods study
    Silveira, Tanya Marie ( 2022)
    This thesis with publication presents the results of the mixed methods study exploring a novel music therapy intervention for stroke survivors with significant weakness to their arm and hand. Using a mixed methods experimental design, with an explanatory sequential core, this randomised controlled trial sought to examine the holistic impact of a 4-week intervention protocol using functional electrical stimulation (FES) together with an iPad-based instrument (ThumbJam) on stroke survivors’ upper limb function and wellbeing outcomes. Recognising the need for more accessible approaches to music-making with this subset of stroke survivors, the intervention protocol was developed using collaborative processes drawing on knowledge from the disciplines of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and music therapy. After securing ethics clearances, recruitment commenced across five hospitals in Sydney, Australia, aiming to recruit a target sample of 40. Fourteen participants were recruited and randomised to receive usual treatment (n=8) or the daily FES+iPad-based music therapy intervention as an addition to usual treatment (n=6) for four weeks (20 sessions). Masked assessors administered the standardised measures of upper limb function and self-report wellbeing questionnaires at three time points (pre- and post- the intervention period, and at three months follow up). All participants were also interviewed at the post-intervention period regarding their perception of how their received treatment supported their overall recovery. The Motor Assessment Scale (MAS-UL) was the primary outcome for arm/hand function. The other measures of arm/hand function included the Manual Muscle Test (MMT-UL), 9-hole-peg test (9HPT) and grip dynamometry. The Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), and the Stroke Self-efficacy Questionnaire (SSEQ) were used to measure wellbeing. As this study was underpowered, mean change scores, confidence intervals and effect sizes (Hedges’ g) were calculated and reported. The intervention group showed greater improvements than control on all upper limb measures, with between group differences on the MAS-UL change score of 2.08 (95% CI -2.08, 6.96; g = 0.5), 0.05 for the 9HPT (95% CI -0.13, 0.23; g = 0.32), 3.33 for the MMT-UL (95% CI -1.26, 7.93; g = 0.85), and 3.68 for grip dynamometer (95% CI -0.70, 8.07; g = 0.99). The intervention group also showed greater decreases in anxiety (between group difference: -1.83; 95% CI -7.63, 3.97; g = 0.37), but lesser reductions in depression (2.25; 95% CI -7.71, 12.21, g = 0.27). There were no notable differences between groups for stress and self-efficacy. Reflexive thematic analysis of the qualitative interview data revealed different reflections about the treatment received by each group, with intervention participant themes focusing on their perceived improvement in upper limb function and strength, as well as the motivating and relaxing aspects of musical engagement. These integrated findings suggest that FES+iPad-based music therapy has the potential to simultaneously improve post-stroke upper limb function and wellbeing. Therefore, this pilot study supports the need for future research that is adequately powered for efficacy testing.
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    Performing the undiscovered solo piano works of Italian composer Lucia Contini Anselmi (1876-1913)
    Nelson, Quilby ( 2022)
    Lucia Contini Anselmi (b.1876-d.? after 1913) was an Italian composer and pianist. Born in Vercelli, Italy, Contini Anselmi wrote over thirty works, mainly for solo piano. Despite the current surge of research into women composers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there is little known about Contini Anselmi with no major research to date, compounded by the lack of research into Italian female composers of this time period. Therefore, this study will serve to fill both these gaps in the literature. The goal of this research is to present a performance approach to two of Contini Anselmi’s works, Ludentia Op. 11 (1913) and Sibylla Cumaea Op. 15 (1916) through a practice-led research orientation. This will be realised through the application of the writings in Contini Anselmi’s treatise, Della tecnica per l’esecuzione della musica sul pianoforte e sua interpretazione, a previously unknown document published in 1908.
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    The Performer/Curator: Expanding the Parameters of Artistic Expression and Creativity in a Concert
    Lallo, Joseph ( 2022)
    The focus of this research is the performer/curator, and the search to reimagine the presentation of the musical and extra-musical elements of a concert. Five live concerts, designed and presented using a range of conceptual methods, serve to provide insight into the creative processes of the performer/curator. An examination of the concert frame – the parameters within which a concert is organised and experienced – reveals the factors that most influence concert design and presentation. Identifying these factors gives performers a structured way of recognising their creative freedoms and identifying the aspects of the concert experience they can shape as part of their artistic expression and creativity. The process of using a meta-narrative to guide the curation of the concert frame is shown to expand the performer’s potential to create innovative and personal musical experiences and provides a coherent and unifying method to curate a concert.
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    Thinking About Syncing. Examining the impact of 21st century DJ technology on the production and performance of Electronic Dance Music
    Callander, Michael ( 2022)
    The introduction of synchronisation (sync) to the DJ’s professional toolkit in the early 2000s proved to be controversial and divisive. Until that point, DJs had been so focused on beatmatching – the manual process of tempo-setting and alignment of tracks – that many dismissed sync as ‘cheating’. Concern over technology-assisted creative output is not unique to Electronic Dance Music (EDM); David Hockney’s investigation into the use of optical aids by the Old Masters highlighted similar perspectives in visual art. As sync has simplified some of the mechanical aspects of DJing, DJs have shifted away from building sets by sequencing pre-recorded audio – often made by other music producers – towards an approach that incorporates improvisatory composition and production. This thesis, comprised of a creative folio of performance works and a contextual review of their execution, is the result of a practice-led enquiry into 21st century DJing, distinct from the tradition of selecting and playing records on turntables. For my major work, Real Time, Online, I utilised the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Ableton Live to arrange original works in real-time, and moved beyond audio to incorporate video synthesis and video mixing. For Locked Groove Mix 2, a developmental work, I arranged fifty-one loops, each representing only 1.8 seconds of original audio, in real-time as part of a long-form DJ performance. Through a process of reflective practice and critical review of technique and repertoire both pre- and post-sync, this thesis discusses how technology shapes and informs the realisation of a DJ set, highlighting how sync has catalysed a disconnect between the performer, their gestures, the source material and audiences, necessitating a rethink on how we demonstrate and recognise technical virtuosity in performance. It concludes by arguing that virtuosity in modern DJing is primarily a product of instrument configuration and pre-production, an amalgamation of formerly distinct production and performance techniques, and it identifies how sync’s affordances might inform future views on DJ practice and the presentation of EDM.
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    The Song of the Sibyl: from pagan prophecy to contemporary liturgical drama.
    Watters-Cowan, Asher Peter ( 2022)
    The Song of the Sibyl presents an intriguing case of the preservation and restoration of a medieval Spanish liturgical drama in contemporary society. Listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO (2010), this ancient pagan prophecy of damnation – performed by a vocalist impersonating a Sibyl – was once widespread across Christmas liturgies in Europe. Despite suppression from the Tridentine Council (1545-1563), it was sustained by small communities in Mallorca and Sardinia through rote traditions, and from the 1990s onward, the number of performances across the Catalan regions on the Spanish mainland has flourished. My thesis seeks to understand the many ways this drama can be presented, which results in its preservation and revival. I achieve this through a comparison and analysis of audio and visual source materials, manuscripts, and transcriptions. The manifold reasons for revival include: recovery of primary source documents and reconstructions of manuscripts by 20th century musicologists; the reanimation of Catalan heritage; and a contemporary attraction to the pagan personality of the Sibyl. My research will assist future scholars in understanding the present reception and restoration of this liturgical drama.
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    Melodic Excursions: The Brazilian cavaquinho’s global journey
    May, Adam John ( 2021)
    This research project explores the long and diverse history of the cavaquinho through a combination of practical performance and archival research. This four-string soprano guitar is a ubiquitous instrument in several musical cultures and its origins may be traced to Portugal where very similar instruments have been in use since the seventeenth century. The cavaquinho, and closely related instruments, spread across the globe along routes of migration and this study will focus on four key traditions, those of Brazil, Portugal, Indonesia, and Hawaii. These historical links will be investigated through recorded performances played on the modern Brazilian cavaquinho, together with written analysis of historical and performance contexts. A diverse portfolio of recordings showcases performance practices and repertoires from the nineteenth century, through to the flourishing tradition of the twentieth century and new and emerging contemporary genres. The Brazilian cavaquinho is the instrument through which I engage with these contrasting repertoires, drawing on the richness of the instrument’s technique and performance style. The recordings are not presented as historical recreations, but as extensions of the distinct evolving traditions through the application of contemporary practices. Collaborations with renowned international practitioners feature on many of the recordings, and the creative element of this thesis extends to original arrangements and compositions. Through a combination of performance recordings, research, analysis and original arrangements and compositions, this project demonstrates how the cavaquinho is the perfect vehicle to illuminate and reinvigorate historically linked traditions and styles.
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    Super Flat, Composition for Screen, and the Aesthetics of Electronic Dance Music
    Keddie, Joshua Thomas ( 2021)
    This creative work thesis investigates the application of electronic dance music approaches in interactive compositional contexts. The body of creative work consists of an album, Super Flat Music, reacting to Takashi Murakami’s “Theory of Super Flat Japanese Art” (2001), and two documentary film scores. Super Flat Music investigates the connection between Super Flat and Shibuya-kei, focusing on the application of electronic dance music practice in this context. The two documentary works, Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Future of the Internet and Malaysia’s Last Tigers, investigate how electronic dance music can both react to and enhance location, energy, and narrative in a moving image collaborative context. The resulting creative work thesis demonstrates ways in which electronic dance music can interact with external media elements.