Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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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.
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    An Ontology of Noise: Electro-Acoustic Improvisation as Focal Practice
    Price, Samuel ( 2022)
    ‘Noise’ has played an increasingly prominent role in contemporary art making. Composers, popular musicians, and improvisers have long employed noise as both subversion and assertion of musical expression. Additionally, film makers and visual artists have adopted noisy practices to dissolve form, identity and meaning. Such aesthetic approaches to music and art making prompt us to question and re engage with our experience of the world in different ways. Additionally, the use of noise often involves the development of new ways of conceiving of and using technology associated within a given medium. This thesis interrogates the use and meaning of noise within the context of the author’s practice of improvising music with the drum kit and synthesis. It also examines the turn of this electro-acoustic practice toward the inclusion of a visual component. In doing so, the thesis questions the determinism of the technology employed within the practice through an ontological consideration of noise as vibratory, temporal phenomenon, and as source of indeterminacy. The investigation is initially parsed through Heideggerian perceptual and ontological categories, with a focus on the idea of ‘focal practices’. These ontological categories are then contrasted and advanced in light of Attali’s structuralist notions of noise with particular reference to his codes of ‘repeating’ and ‘composing’. The resulting insights and ideas are then employed in the critique of the practice-led research completed alongside the thesis, including the creation of installed, site specific, audio and audio / visual works. Throughout the thesis, the discussion advances the understanding of how ‘focal’ engagements with technology – those that seek to reduce its dehumanising potential – may allow for richer engagements between sound, noise, and place, and with human being-in-the-world more generally. To conclude, further possibilities and implications for arts practice, production, and reception are introduced.
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    Hushed Tones: Inaudible Music in Hollywood Docudramas 2005-2015
    Callaghan, Andrew Leslie ( 2022)
    This study investigates the effacement of music within Hollywood-produced docudramas of the early twenty-first century. It argues that inaudible film scores (concealed by filmmakers and ‘unheard’ by audiences) contribute to a rhetoric of fidelity and sobriety in these films. The scores’ effacement may be observed as an intention of the filmmakers and as features within a soundtrack, as well as within the traces of audience reception. This thesis proposes a framework to discuss the audibility of music in film, which informs the investigation of a series of docudramas—films based on real events—that were nominated for the top accolade at the Academy Awards between 2005 and 2015. While the effacement of film music has been loosely associated with realism in past scholarship, what that term might exactly mean was not explored in detail. As Hollywood-produced docudramas combine documentary claims with classical narrative forms, they offer a potentially rich sphere to seek and examine inaudibility. It can be argued that the cultures within these productions treat music as problematic and that established composers must contend with this issue. Detailed analyses of the film scores for Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (2015), Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips (2013), and Ben Affleck’s Argo (2012) are presented. The examination of these scores’ cue placement, formal design, style, and functions reveals old and new practices intended to efface film music. Discussions dedicated to inaudibility are absent from recent literature. Musical effacement was initially theorised to dominate the scores of Hollywood’s golden age, however doubts about those theories and changes in academic focus have led to a period of neglect. Cognitive models of perception inform a revision of previous concepts, which also incorporates other critiques and takes recent film practices into account. The effect of attention upon film music functions suggests how traces of listening, such as reviews and fan texts about the films and their soundtracks, may also indicate a score’s relative audibility.
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    Beyond The Concept Album REALMS: A Transmedial Approach to the Narrative Concept Album
    Tinkler, Matthew PJ Gabriel ( 2022)
    In recent years, the narrative concept album format has been somewhat disregarded by music consumers, due in-part to the popularisation of music-streaming services changing the way in which music is consumed. Despite this change in behaviour, the narrative concept album format has seen little evolution in its delivery method, even with significant advances in the accessibility of interactive digital technology and potential for its incorporation with the format. REALMS is a project that explores a transmedial approach to the creation, presentation, and dissemination of a narrative concept album, posing a potential solution to this issue. Presented as a website, it provides the audience with various ways to interact with the storyworld and its components, as well as allowing them to engage with both musical and extramusical content as they wish. This freedom of interaction is fundamental to the project, as it allows it to sit within the confines of the current music industry landscape whilst providing opportunities for audiences to engage at a deeper level. The introductory statement explores the conceptualisation and collaborative efforts of the creative process whilst also providing further context to the project and its intentions moving forwards. An explanation of the various elements of the project and how they coalesce into a work much greater than the sum of its parts is also provided. REALMS demonstrates a reimagining of the narrative concept album format in a virtual environment, as well as offers a template for the realisation of the format within a transmedial framework in an attempt to provide a step towards solving the issue of commercial and artistic viability of the narrative concept album in the modern digital era.
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    Visions of Venice: A Comparative Analysis of Mendelssohn’s Gondola Songs for Piano
    Yim, Ho Ka Lesley ( 2022)
    Abstract During the nineteenth century, there was a growing interest for Romantic piano repertoire. Felix Mendelssohn was a significant contributor to music for the romantic piano and his Songs Without Words coincided with the increasing popularity of the home piano. This meant there was an increased appetite for accessible music to the amateur musician. In his lifetime, Mendelssohn composed four piano gondola songs: three titled Venetianisches Gondellied as part of his eight-volume Lieder ohne Worte with an additional gondola song titled Gondellied published after his death. There is a considerable lack of research and representation of Mendelssohn’s Venetian Gondola Songs in the current literature. This is compounded by an absence of literature that examines all four Gondellied. This thesis explores Mendelssohn’s three Venetianisches Gondellied as well as his posthumous Gondellied. The four works are examined individually before a comparative analysis of the similarities and differences between the four works. In the investigation, I conduct a traditional musical analysis of the four pieces. The analysis focuses on elements such as form, harmony, accompaniment, and articulation, in addition to an engagement with the surface elements of the music which include patterns, figurations, and gestures. My analytical approach involves score analysis as well as practice and performing of the pieces. This research identifies the distinguishing elements of Mendelssohn’s Gondola Songs for piano solo. The research undertaken in this study contributes to the existing body of literature by allowing performers to situate their practice within a broader analytical context in addition to serving as a valuable performative and analytical resource. By examining the three Venetian gondola songs from the Songs Without Words with the posthumous WoO 10 gondola song, this fills a void of knowledge in the current literary environment with no studies examining all four of these compositions.
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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.