Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Toward a Practical Rediscovery of the Art of 19th-Century Preluding: A Horn Playing Perspective
    Posega, Cinzia Julia ( 2023-04)
    This thesis explores and recreates the nineteenth-century art of preluding, with a focus on the horn virtuoso, Jacques-Francois Gallay (1795-1864) and his works. When attending a concert of western classical music today, certain formalities are taken for granted – that the music one expects to hear are those pieces listed in the program or that the performers know exactly what notes they are about to play. Musical conventions of the nineteenth century called for a diametrically opposed approach from performers: concerts began with an improvised (or semi-improvised) prelude, and programs of pre-composed repertoire were often woven together by improvised transition passages. In this way, performers asserted their status as creative individuals – most performers in the nineteenth century were also, to some extent, composers. Horn players today rarely incorporate preluding into their performances. This project puts forward arguments for exploring improvisation in a historically informed context. The research is informed by a practice-led framework. This comprises an exploration of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century treatises on preluding, as well as contemporary literature on improvisation; a practical investigation of Gallay’s unaccompanied works; and the presentation of a 60-minute recital including composed repertoire linked by improvised preludes. This research highlights that incorporating improvisatory elements into horn players’ private practice and public performance offers the performer benefits: a deepened understanding of the score; a more thorough understanding of harmony; and an increased engagement with one’s audience. This project encourages the discovery of new perspectives in the area of historically informed performance on the horn.
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    An exploration of people with dementia and their family care partners’ experiences of shared home-based music
    McMahon, Katherine Jean Meredith ( 2023-06)
    This dissertation describes an emergent project exploring how people living with dementia and their family care partners experience shared musical activities. With an increasing number of people with dementia residing in the community, family members play a key role in providing support for daily living as family care partners. There is, therefore, a recognised need to support the wellbeing of both people living with dementia and their family care partners. Music interventions uniquely support mood, memory and communication for people with dementia. However, little is known about how sharing music might support people with dementia and their family care partners as dyads. This thesis sought to address this gap through two qualitative studies: a thematic synthesis of the literature and a hermeneutic phenomenological study. This research was situated within a larger study examining a 12-week home-based music intervention (HOMESIDE), where I played dual roles as a researcher and music therapist. The thematic synthesis was conducted first to inform later stages of the research. My thematic synthesis explored how dyads experience shared musical activities across a range of contexts, including community settings, residential aged care, and the home. An analysis of 13 qualitative studies found that shared musical activities supported the individual and collective wellbeing of dyads through fostering connection. The findings informed the development of the Contextual Connection Model of Health Musicking for People Living with Dementia and Their Family Care Partners. This model captured the relationship between dyads’ contexts, their experiences of sharing music, and their wellbeing. In my second study, I conducted a hermeneutic phenomenological exploration of the shared musical experiences of six dyads participating in HOMESIDE. I recruited dyads I had worked with as a music therapist to utilise the rapport we had developed. Data was collected through music-based interviews to capture dyads’ musical and non-verbal experiences in the moment. Additional data was collected from the HOMESIDE study including dyads’ intervention diaries and semi-structured interviews. To explore and build on the Contextual Connection Model, this data was analysed using an abductive and relational-centred approach to hermeneutic phenomenological analysis. Through this analysis, I developed fifteen themes to capture dyads’ experiences of shared home-based musicking. These fifteen themes were organised into three global themes: 1) Experiences were shaped by complex influences; 2) A connected musical ecosystem; and 3) Music was a resource for wellbeing. These findings added depth, nuance and novelty to the Contextual Connection Model, leading to the development of the Revised Contextual Connection Model of Musicking for People Living with Dementia and Their Family Care Partners. This revised model conceptualises dyads’ experiences of musicking as cyclical and ecological, with nuanced outcomes including supported wellbeing, changed relationships to music, and challenging experiences. This study also provided insights into dyads’ process of learning to use music as a resource. This thesis provides theoretical and practical insights into dyads’ experiences of sharing music in the home and broader contexts. My research highlights the complexity of dyads’ shared musical experiences, and the central role of connection through musicking in supporting their wellbeing. It also locates the unique role of music therapy within the evolving landscape of music in dementia care. These understandings may support future development and refinement of therapeutic music interventions for dyads.
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    ‘RESILIENCE’ AND EVERYDAY LIFE AS ‘TRAUMA’: LEARNING LESSONS FOR GROWTH THROUGH USING MUSIC
    Sharp, Christine Audrey ( 2023-02)
    In the subfield of sociomusicology, traditional approaches to understanding music use in everyday life have focused on use in specific and isolated cases. For instance, in Tia DeNora’s foundational text, Music in Everyday Life (2000), theoretical explanation of the interplay of these cases is lacking. This thesis proposes a new theoretical framework and model that expands on this approach to include a more holistic explanation of music use that builds on interdisciplinary and specific perspectives of resilience and everyday life as trauma. I argue that these new perspectives, utilising the theory of posttraumatic growth, can fill this gap and explain music use in everyday life as a process of ‘learning lessons for growth’, thus contributing new analytical approaches to sociomusicology. Besides DeNora’s text, the interdisciplinary works specific to this thesis are from David Chandler and Mark Epstein from the fields of global politics and psychology respectively. The particular music that is analysed to demonstrate the framework are pop songs from a recent Billboard ‘Global 200’ chart and a classical song cycle, ‘Narrow Sea’, recently composed by Caroline Shaw. Also considered in these analyses are music videos and social media.
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    Notes on Speculative Ethnography in Sound: two case studies
    Bhat, Aditya Ryan ( 2023)
    Speculation has long been part of humankind’s creative repertoire. This dissertation examines sonic speculation, focussing on two case studies whose content sits in dialogue with critical ideas from anthropology. In the 1980s, writer Ursula K. Le Guin and composer Todd Barton collaborated on an album of Music and Poetry of the Kesh to accompany Le Guin’s quasi-ethnographic ‘novel’ Always Coming Home (1985). This collection of thirteen tracks was presented to the audience as literal field-recordings of performances by a hypothetical future society. More recently, Berlin-based sound artist Andrew Pekler released Tristes Tropiques (2016), after the classic fieldwork-memoir of Claude Lévi-Strauss. It responds to the anthropologist’s meditations on cultural loss in Amazonia whilst also critically reflecting on the artist’s own listening tastes. The records diverge in form, function, and (unsurprisingly) technical sophistication. But, as this paper will show, they have key similarities, placing them both within the category of ‘speculative ethnography in sound’. Materially, speculative ethnography in sound is an approach that manipulates and combines synthesised and real-world sounds in often-uncanny ways. Conceptually, it applies a critical attitude towards social and economic relations in the contemporary world to destabilise static, dichotomies like Humanity and Nature, or Self and Other. In the absence of literature dedicated to this topic, the discussion draws on a wide swathe of relevant literature: anti-colonial criticism (including Marxist and indigenous perspectives), ecocriticism, and the ‘reflexive turn’ anthropological theory of the 1970s and 1980s. The dissertation considers the political role of speculative creativity, and proposes areas for further research.
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    The Expressive Potential of the Interpretive Edition: A Practice-Led Analysis of the Editions of Beethoven Piano Sonatas by Hans von Bülow and Sigmund Lebert, Donald Francis Tovey and Harold Craxton, Artur Schnabel, and Claudio Arrau
    Hooke, Joshua ( 2023-05)
    This practice-led project asserts the value of the often-overlooked interpretive edition as an indispensable tool for performers, encouraging them to consider numerous approaches to interpreting a piece of music. The thesis portion of the project will begin with the suggestion that overly textualist readings of urtext scores have limited the potential for creating interpretively exploratory performances. With a focus on selected piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven – in particular his sonata in A flat, Op. 110 – this thesis will contend that great performers play a key role in forging much of the meaning surrounding this music and its place in concert repertoire. A practice-led analysis of selected editions will be used to illustrate this. This will offer a framework to encourage performers to look at the interpretive editions of the great musicians who have gone before them. These are the musicians who gave this music much of its popular meaning, who have faced the same artistic and technical challenges, and presented their various ideas and solutions in these scores.
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    Seeking the “dirty-beautiful”: An investigation into a compositional practice informed by shadows, impermanence and ambiguity
    Cheney, Lisa Jessie ( 2022-12)
    This creative-based research comprises a folio of original compositions, totalling two hours of music, and a written exegesis of 25,000 words. The portfolio explores the developing influence of a “dirty-beautiful” aesthetic, reflecting both a poetic worldview and preferences that shape a compositional language and sound world. Parallels are drawn with the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi and seeking beauty in the unusual, perishable, blurred or dimly lit shadow. A preference for creating dualities in order to dissolve them to reach a space in-between is established, particularly through an exploration of themes of lightness and darkness. Choices concerning register, timbre, activity and stasis, harmony and texture are situated on a continuum, building the foundations of this personal compositional style. The folio of compositions includes orchestral works, a flute concerto and four chamber works, plus a staged musical work for young audiences. A framework for reading music for wabi-sabi qualities is established and underpins the conceptually based qualities for writing music that I term “dirty-beautiful”. These qualities are paralleled most clearly in the music of Kaija Saariaho and Toru Takemitsu. Notions on how vulnerability might inform musical ideas and composition are also explored through both textural, sonic forms and personal experience relating to identity, gender and the notion of giving voice through in-depth analysis of many folio works. The accompanying folio of music compositions was composed between late 2014 and early 2019. It presents Arcane for symphony orchestra (2014-15); No Distant Place for piano, clarinet and violin (2015); Everything is Illuminated for violin, viola, cello, double bass, piano, percussion and harp (2016 rev. 2018); When We Speak for solo cello and fixed electroacoustic track (2016 rev. 2017-18); Strange Charisma for solo prepared harp (2019 rev. 2021); Flute Concerto (2017); excerpts from The Owl and the Pussycat, an opera for young audiences (2017–18) and Penumbral Shadow for chamber orchestra (2018–19). I arrive at a point where I am able to question and evaluate what writing music means to me as a composer.
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    Exploring How Music Therapists Describe Constructing Safety with Young People with Adverse or Traumatic Experiences
    Lai, Hsin-I Cindy ( 2023-05)
    Abstract This thesis is an investigation of safety and music therapy in the context of trauma. Herman (2015) describes safety as one of the critical and foremost elements in trauma care. However, there exists little research exploring the importance of safety and inspecting the role of music and music therapy in assisting the creation of safety, as evidenced from the results of the Critical Interpretive Synthesis (CIS). It highlights the need for empirical research into strategies that music therapists engage to create safety. The present qualitative study engaged hermeneutic phenomenology to reveal insights from eighteen experienced music therapists from eleven countries volunteering to participate in the project. Each of the participants have had between 7 and 35 years of experience working with diverse scenarios within the field of trauma. Online zoom interviews were conducted to capture participants' perspectives on safety and their experiences of providing safety in their programs. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith et al., 2009) was used to process the interview transcriptions. Participants shared their detailed and insightful knowledge into music therapy and creating safety, which resulted in identifying five emergent themes: safety space, semi-structured program, gentle and respectful facilitation strategies, regular supervision and self-care, and methods used in the program. Safety seems to be a concept that promotes containment and connection through offering control and choice making, negotiation and communication, and providing opportunities for self-expression and self-exploration. Incorporating these findings with relevant literature, I have constructed the concept of a music therapy container, to help music therapists working with traumatised young people to understand how to provide safety in the program. The container includes the five refined components: a safe room; familiarity and predictability; choice-making and control; the therapist's personal qualities; and musical affordances. Each of the components contribute to the creation of physical, environmental, and psychological safety in the program. Importantly, music therapy facilitated with caution affords a space without judgement, a sense of equality and safety for individual expression even within such a complex and unpredictable context. Without forcing individuals, nor focusing only on trauma, the creation of safety in music therapy sessions seems to afford young trauma survivors and therapists alike a container for being and responding. The participants shared similar views on a few crucial elements that promote this connection: being flexible, going with the flow, and taking a client-centred approach. The flexibility that the participants provide creates room for self-exploration and feelings of safety by the individuals. Music therapy can offer a space of respite, relaxation and security, coupled with experiences that may enable individuals to have a broader container for their trauma and assist in self-regulation. Therefore, gaining fundamental tools to assist the therapists connect and engage with individuals can increase the feeling of calmness and perhaps feeling more stable and safer in the program and beyond.
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    The Mutability of Bach: New Arrangements of J.S. Bach’s Accompanied Violin Music for the Saxophone
    Kenealy, Justin Maurice ( 2022-12)
    Since the invention of the saxophone in the 1840s, the practice of arrangement has played a pivotal role in developing and enriching the instrument’s repertoire. This project explores the repertoire of the concert saxophone, with a special focus on the use of new and existing arrangements of works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750). Repertoire included in the project follows a tradition of saxophonists of the last century combining original works with arrangements of works for other instruments to add musical variety to their programs and recordings. This performance-based thesis consists of a performance folio of 210 minutes, comprising 75% of the overall project, and a written dissertation of 25,000 words (25%). The folio includes a combination of live and studio recordings presented as three distinct programs: a survey of original saxophone repertoire, existing arrangements of Bach for the saxophone, and the new editions of the five selected works. This practice-led thesis expands the repertory by creating new arrangements of five accompanied violin works by J.S. Bach: Concerto in A minor BWV 1041, Concerto in E major BWV 1042, Sonata in G major BWV 1021, Sonata in E minor BWV 1023, and Fugue in G minor BWV 1026. The process behind the development of these new Bach arrangements for the saxophone is explored in the dissertation, informed by a study of Bach’s own practice as an arranger. Complementary analysis of arrangement techniques utilised by saxophonists and other wind players since the middle of the twentieth century provides further context for the creation of new arrangements. Through this analysis, a set of general arrangement principles are established and employed to resolve areas of significant conflict between the technical capabilities of the violin and the soprano saxophone. Issues of tessitura, multiple stopping, and phrasing and breathing are addressed to ensure the new editions are idiomatic for the saxophone. The complete, notated arrangements are included as appendices to the dissertation.
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    A Performer’s Interpretation of Francis Poulenc’s Sonate pour hautbois et piano FP185 as a Reflection of Anticipatory Grief and the Grieving Process
    Leaman, Briana Kathryn ( 2023-03)
    Since its posthumous premiere at the Strasbourg Music Festival of 1963, Francis Poulenc’s (1899–1963) Sonate pour hautbois et piano FP185 (1962) has been a staple of the oboe repertoire worldwide, being regularly listed as an option on AMEB, ABRSM and repertoire lists ranging from the 1966 McGinnis and Marx Music Publishers’ catalogue of oboe music to the Vienna Symphonic Library’s current selection of suggested oboe repertoire. Poulenc’s dedication of the work 'In memory of Sergei Prokofiev' is often cited as the piece’s impetus as well as its subtext, implying that the work’s purpose is to serve as a tribute to a close friend of the composer and that this explains its melancholic character. In examining the content of the Sonate and its surrounding context within Poulenc’s life and career, however, another interpretation can be offered, which views the work as a reflection of Poulenc’s anxiety, or Anticipatory Grief, over his own pending mortality. This can be highlighted in the music through analysing the development of the Sonate’s motivic material in terms of the grief- processing theories of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (and, later, her co-author David Kessler), Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut. In practice, viewing the work in this light can offer a relatable and meaningful approach to this key piece of the oboe repertoire that is structured yet uniquely flexible based on the performers’ unique experiences with grief. The thesis below, which is approximately 24,000 words, constitutes 25 percent of the final research output for this PhD. The remaining 75 percent has been provided separately as a creative portfolio of approximately 216 minutes of live concert and studio recordings that demonstrate a variety of stylistic approaches and techniques, spanning from Mozart’s 1777 Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra to one of my most recent Australian commissions from 2022. I have grouped the recordings (both video and audio) into three conceptual programs representing the influences, persona, and proposed Anticipatory Grief of Francis Poulenc: PROGRAM 1: Inspiration and Les Six PROGRAM 2: Poulenc the Paradoxical PROGRAM 3: Grief, Introspection, and the Temporal Dilemma A full outline of each program, including recording details, can be found in Appendix A.
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    Breath of Metamorphosis: Improvisation and Interdisciplinary Performance in Contemporary Recorder Playing
    Williams, Ryan Christopher ( 2022-12)
    This thesis is an exploration of the recorder in a contemporary music practice. My practice focuses on improvisation, especially free improvisation, interdisciplinary performance, and the performance of notated works. By undertaking both collaborative and solo projects, I have investigated the use of the recorder within my contemporary music practice and traced the different ways in which I employ improvisation. This performance-based thesis consists of a portfolio of recordings (75%) and a written dissertation (25%). The design of my research is primarily based on Robin Nelson’s Practice as Research methodology and the principal aim is to investigate my use of the recorder and improvisation across my practice in contemporary music. The recorded portfolio, consisting of both audio and video recordings, showcases a diverse range of collaborative, creative, and improvisation led performances that explore key elements of my research enquiry. The recorded portfolio is divided into three main categories. Category 1 consists of recorded works that were created with a focus on using sound with other artforms in an interdisciplinary way, while category 2 demonstrates my work within free improvisation on two collaborative recordings and one solo recording. Notated works that were commissioned from Australian composers, and the performance and preparation of these pieces are the focus of category 3. Improvisation plays a critical role in all the music presented via the creative process, select notated scores, and the recorded performances. The recorded portfolio is supported by a written dissertation which provides context and critical reflections on the creative material. The written dissertation provides an introduction to the recorder in improvisation and discusses my free improvised practice with an emphasis on extended techniques. I investigate newly commissioned notated works for the recorder and reveal links between improvisation and composition in the collaborative process. Approaches to interdisciplinary practices are also discussed through case studies focusing on sound, movement, and spoken-word. Appendices of supporting material, which include a discography of free improvised recordings with the recorder and select audio samples that demonstrate my use of key extended techniques, complement the dissertation. Through a combination of recordings, research, and critical reflection, this integrated project offers a unique and broad ranging investigation into a rich and multi-faceted contemporary music practice with the recorder.