Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    A comparative recording analysis of three Russian performers of Rachmaninoff’s transcription of J.S Bach’s BWV 1006: Towards a performance framework
    Liang, Richard Zhao Yang ( 2022)
    As one of the finest pianists of the twentieth century, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s transcriptions for solo piano were regularly included in his concert repertory to demonstrate his musical excellence and artistry. Substantial research in recent years has documented the significance of the transcription genre in Rachmaninoff’s life and career, yet studies that are rigorously focused on the interpretative aspects of his arrangement of J.S Bach’s Violin Partita no. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006 – otherwise known as the Suite – are currently lacking. This thesis provides a comparative analysis of three Russian recordings of the Suite by the composer himself, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Daniil Trifonov. The interpretative aspects within these recordings, such as tempo variation, pedalling, and voicing, are investigated to construct a performance framework. This is conducted with the hope that the reader is provided with a valuable perspective to situate their own understanding of the Suite within a broader context of the work’s performance history.
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    Music and eating disorders
    Taylor, Hannah Mathilda ( 2022)
    This thesis investigates how people with eating disorders experience and engage with music. Eating disorders are severe mental health conditions that present through a distorted body image, a pre-occupation with body weight and an unhealthy relationship with food. Although eating disorders are rising in prevalence and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, attempts to understand their aetiology and develop effective interventions continue. A systematic literature review concluded that there have been few studies of rigorous design that directly investigate how this population use and/or experience music. An investigation of the literature revealed that music therapy is available as a treatment to eating disorder patients despite limited research to draw upon. The purpose of this thesis was to consider musical engagement in a population with eating disorders, and to examine the impact of two commonly co-occurring conditions on the musical experience: alexithymia (an inability to recognise emotions) and anhedonia (lack of pleasure). A synthesis of literature is essential for understanding possible benefits or risks of music use in this population. Findings demonstrate the potential for future research to explore how music is used by people with eating disorders and to provide more sophisticated explanations of how music is experienced by these individuals. Such information may have diagnostic implications and will be helpful in subsequently devising appropriate interventions.
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    In Dowland's Own Words: Lachrimae and Flow my teares
    Fitzpatrick, Casey ( 2022)
    This research project connects the historical performance practice conventions of John Dowland’s lute songs to related music in his solo lute repertory. Through a written dissertation and live recorded recital, I explore the influences of vocal music on Dowland’s compositions, and discover tangible performance insights that are informed by the relationship between Dowland’s songs and solo lute pieces. John Dowland (1563-1626) was amongst the finest lute players of his time and is widely recognised as the greatest English composer of lute music and lute song. Despite there being nearly one hundred sources containing Dowland’s music, only ten percent of these can be directly connected to Dowland, and only four published under his supervision. The dilution of Dowland’s original source material is particularly acute because Renaissance tablature manuscripts lack phrase markings, dynamic markings, tempo indications and articulation markings. This means modern scholar-performers are often required to look beyond the tablature manuscript in pursuit of interpretive justification for performance decisions in other historical sources. There is a small but important collection of Dowland’s compositions that exist in two forms: songs and instrumental dances. Many performers and scholars are aware of Dowland’s practice of recycling musical content, but less commonly explored are the specific insights that may be gained into the performance practice of Dowland’s music by studying these sources. Because Dowland was directly involved with the publication of his lute songs, they are particularly reliable and undiluted examples of his work. Unlike the vast collection of tablature attributed to Dowland from disparate manuscript sources, his published lute songs provide an insightful opportunity to directly examine the original composition and draw parallels between Dowland’s songs and their related solo pieces. The links are not always immediately clear or easy to identify, but once established, provide opportunities to learn from the vocal music when interpreting a related solo piece. This performance-led research thesis comprises a recorded recital (60%) and written dissertation (40%). The recital aims to highlight the inherit melodiousness of Dowland’s compositions, alongside other lute composers that are equally indebted to the voice and song. The written dissertation examines the most famous example of a Dowland piece existing in two forms, the lute solo “Lachrimae pavane” and the lute song “Flow my teares”. An examination of these two pieces reveals insights into interpretative details such as the accentuation, articulation and phrasing relevant to the performance of both versions.
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    Feasibility, Acceptability, and Effects of Musical Attention Control Training for Schizophrenia
    Haigh, Cameron ( 2022)
    Cognitive dysfunction is a major feature of schizophrenia and is associated with reduced outcomes in day-to-day function for individuals with the illness. Musical Attention Control Training (MACT) has begun to attract the attention of researchers as a promising modality for addressing cognitive difficulties associated with schizophrenia. In schizophrenia, auditory attention may play an important role in symptoms including auditory hallucinations, and gains in attention may drive improvements in more complex executive function processes. Neurologic music therapy, including the technique of MACT, holds potential to be an engaging and effective form of cognitive rehabilitation for people with schizophrenia. This feasibility case series study was conducted in an inpatient mental health rehabilitation unit with the following research questions. First, is a group Musical Attention Control Training program acceptable and useful for individuals with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder in an inpatient rehabilitation setting? Second, what is the effect of the program on attention of participants at the levels of sustained, selective, alternating, and divided attention? Third, are the measures chosen appropriate and sufficiently sensitive to capture participant outcomes? Fourth, are there any adverse effects from participating in the study? Fifth, what are the recruitment and completion rates of participants in the study? Sixth, and finally, what are the reasons for declining participation, withdrawal, or lack of treatment adherence? Eight participants with schizophrenia participated in a 12-session program of group MACT. Participants rated their experience in each session and provided feedback in group and individual interviews. Psychometric measures of attention (subtests from Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale IV, Trail Making Test, and Test of Everyday Attention) were administered pre- and post-intervention. Results for each individual were analysed using the Reliable Change Index with Practice Effect (RCI+P). For additional comparison, five matched control participants in the same rehabilitation program completed the attention battery at baseline and after four weeks of treatment as usual. Participant reports demonstrated that the program of MACT was acceptable, and four participants reported improvements in their attention abilities which they attributed to their participation in the program. Psychometric results were within measurement error using RCI+P apart from one reliably worse subtest score at post-test (Elevator Counting with Distraction). One individual showed a trend of improvement on most measures but did not meet thresholds for reliable change. The elevator counting subtests of the Test of Everyday Attention show promise for future MACT studies. This study used rich data collection to illuminate the experiences of individuals with schizophrenia engaging with MACT. Pragmatic recommendations include suggestions for future research in both musical and non-musical cognitive training, and lessons for neurologic music therapy practice in psychiatric settings.
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    Individual Differences in the Experience of Musically-Evoked Chills
    Lowe-Brown, Xanthe ( 2022)
    Research into individual differences has unveiled associations between personality traits and music preferences, however the understanding of individual differences in the experience of Musically-Evoked Chills (MECs) is still in its infancy. Therefore, this study investigated the relationship between individual differences and MECs in music listening. A literature review was conducted that scoped current research on personality traits, cognitive styles and MECs. Furthermore, the study investigated Music Recommender Systems (MRSs) and music listening apps that suggest personalised music on streaming platforms. The scoping review revealed positive associations between openness to experience, neuroticism, the music-empathising cognitive style and MECs. These findings have resulted in the proposition of a theoretical model that suspects a link between MECs and music preferences. Future research directions include improving MRSs to account for individual differences, which may enhance their ability to regulate music listeners’ emotional responses, and in turn, may enhance their emotional wellbeing.
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    Folio of Compositions
    Dillon, Kym Alexandra ( 2022)
    Kym Alexandra Dillon Master of Music (Research) Folio of compositions 1 -- Folio introduction 2 -- Sonata for Flute and Piano 3 -- Diapsalmata: Portrait of a Self As a composer I consider myself as working firmly within the Western art music tradition, with a focus primarily on acoustic music. I seek to explore and harness language and approaches from the expanded palette of late 20th/early 21st century art music within works that highly prioritise narrative and personal authenticity; works that aim to speak equally to listeners both familiar and unfamiliar with art music. Broadly I would describe the intended sound world of my music as one that highlights beauty within strangeness. Much of my work has as a sort of focal point the notion of creation: how and why human beings create, and what it says about us that we do. In recent works this has developed into an increasing exploration of the subjective and the subconscious, and how personal expression is integrated with other more objective elements within artistic practice. My work has a fluid approach to style which naturally flows both from these general philosophical interests as well as the breadth and diversity of my own musical experience. My folio is comprised of two long-form works: one written for flute and piano, the other for baritone and large chamber ensemble. The larger work, Diapsalmata: Portrait of a Self, is comprised of a number of smaller movements. Although the work has an overarching tone and manner, there is considerable variety from movement to movement, the instrumentation of each one utilising a different subset of the larger ensemble. This fluid sense of style and identity in the piece is tied to its programmatic elements, but it additionally ends up providing a fairly comprehensive survey of my compositional approaches. In contrast to the shifting nature of Diapsalmata, I have included my Sonata for Flute and Piano. It is a long-form work of a more consistent character within a more limited instrumentation, and as such I feel it provides a suitable complement to the other work.
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    ‘Not Highbrow Music But Good Music': Middlebrow Culture in the American Reception of Johannes Brahms at the Centenary, 1933
    Weitzer, Adam ( 2022)
    Limited research has been undertaken on the cultural reception of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) in twentieth-century America. This thesis moves to redress this gap by examining the social, cultural, and intellectual dynamics surrounding the Brahms centenary in 1933. To do so, it draws on perspectives from middlebrow studies in order to critically examine Brahms’s popularisation during the interwar period. Through close readings of articles from the American press and music periodicals, the thesis asks how Brahms’s American reception was shaped by middlebrow culture, how this middlebrow reception reflected continuities and changes in relation to Brahms’s nineteenth-century reception, and what this reception reveals about segments of the American public in the interwar period. The thesis contains an introduction, three chapters, and a conclusion. Chapter One surveys Brahms’s American reception from the time he was first performed there in 1855 until the centenary in 1933. Chapter Two investigates a range of themes present in critical writings at the centenary. These include how American critics reflected on the generational shift in Brahms reception, how Brahms embodied ideas of social, intellectual, and emotional uplift, how Brahms was appropriated as an Anglo-Saxon model, and how critics celebrated Brahms as an individualist. Finally, Chapter Three analyses the reception of Robert Haven Schauffler’s _The Unknown Brahms_, a biography written for the centenary which proved a popular sensation despite being factually unreliable. I demonstrate that the book’s critical reception highlighted the middlebrow tendency to connect an appreciation of music to an appreciation of personality. By analysing Brahms’s reception within the socio-cultural milieu of interwar America, the thesis contributes to a growing body of scholarship that seeks to study Brahms beyond the context of the musical work, while also offering a fresh case study to the emerging musicological engagement with middlebrow studies.
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    Behind the Photograph: The Portrayal of Chinese and Feminine Elements as Others in 'Nixon in China'
    Owens, Alex M. ( 2022)
    John Adams and his frequent collaborator Peter Sellars share a growing body of stage works that platform and tell American stories. Their first and most well-known opera, Nixon in China, created with librettist Alice Goodman and premiered in 1986, mythologises the events of the U.S. President Richard Nixon’s 1972 diplomatic trip to China. Working against the backdrop of a long history of antagonistic portrayals of foreign and feminine characteristics in operatic works, does this modern work avoid casting non-American and non-masculine characters as symbolic ‘others’ in a measured portrayal of historical events? Through analysing sections of the score and available recordings of the opera, and discussing interviews given by the creative team over the last thirty years, this thesis seeks to understand the biases inherent to the construction of character in this opera’s second act. Focus will be given to the ballet scene, a parodied fragment of The Red Detachment of Women, and the arias of the two lead female roles Madame Mao and Pat Nixon. This all-American creative team, though aware of the history and difficulties in portraying foreign and feminine elements in operatic works, continue to be constrained by their nationalistic viewpoints and masculine focus. This is due to the limited use and availability of source materials outside of those used to conceptualise masculine characters, and the ethnocentric bias of the creative team which resultantly casts both Chinese and feminine elements as Others. This thesis connects to a growing field of intersectional study on issues in operatic construction both in works created recently and across the history of opera.
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    Combinations of Western and Chinese elements in Wang Li-San’s On the Other Range and Flavors of Two Poems by Li He
    Tao, Yilan ( 2022)
    This thesis is comprised of research in both performance and written format. The project is divided between the video-recorded recital (two-thirds) and the written document (one-third). Wang Li-San (1933-2013) is a Chinese composer, theorist, and educator. His composition output is made predominately of piano music, with several piano suites and solo works. In his early life and period of academic study, Wang became familiar with Western classical music, modernism, and traditional Chinese music. Then, political issues impacted him, resulting in a deeper understanding of Chinese folk songs and instruments. He developed a distinctive style and kept composing throughout his life. Among his works, On the Other Range and Flavors of Two Poems by Li He were two suites composed in the late period of his life, demonstrating unique ideas for combining Chinese and Western elements. This thesis focuses on how Wang Li-San used the two elements in the two works mentioned above. The theoretical framework consists of musical analysis of Wang’s compositional theory including tonality and forms, as well as analyzing ideas in philosophy. Wang used Chinese modes together with Western contrapuntal writing in On the Other Range, a set of Five Preludes and Fugues. In the other piece Flavors of Two Poems by Li He, he combined the twelve-tone technique with Chinese modes. Additionally, there are also influences from Chinese opera, imitation of Chinese instruments, and allusions to specific Western pieces in both suites.
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    UNWRAPPING AUTHENTICITY: Skill development + perception / conception development
    Friedman, Noemi ( 2022)
    The music that has always meant the most to me has taught me something new about the world, about life, or about myself. It has a brilliance about it, a depth, an innate beauty. The music that has touched me the most has an inherent authenticity, and authenticity touches people. It does not have to be a serious or earnest work; it can be fun, whimsical, or curious. But there remains an underlying integrity, a truthfulness, and a musical communication that lies beyond superficiality, gimmick, or sterile intellectualism and I hope to believe that humans are hard-wired to know when communication is authentic. As a listener, I seek music where there is genuine coherence between the artist and that which they express in their work. As a music maker and practitioner, the continual extension of my technical skills, knowledge, and analysis is essential. However, so too is pondering, deep listening, and observation of oneself and the world, as well as the development of what I would like to say. Whilst technique and research assist a composer to present a work with clarity, poignancy, and potency, they are not the point in and of themselves. So, whilst I extend my technical and analytical music skills, I also seek to clarify and extend my ability to perceive and conceive an integral point of view. Authenticity requires interrogation of one’s perception, broad enquiry, and leaning on one’s own life experiences. I believe that perception is as important a skill to develop in music as it is in the visual arts. I create as I perceive. I am a witness to my life and to my times. Each creative has a chance to deliver a refracted vision of life as we experience it; as we share our version of reality, so too does the collective understanding of life broaden and flourish. This initiates an important feedback loop, where flourishing ideas nourish the community, which then, in turn, nourish new creative endeavours. For this composer, authenticity means witnessing and expressing the corner of reality I inhabit; my culture, my experiences, my observations, and history-in-the-making during my life and times. I locate my music with this compass.