“Biographical Milestones”: Interpreting Sixty Years of Larry Sitsky’s Stylistic Evolution in Australia (1959–2019) Through a Comparative Analysis of His Solo Flute Works
AuthorShon, Stephanie Athina
AffiliationMelbourne Conservatorium of Music
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2021 Stephanie Athina Shon
This thesis interprets the stylistic evolution of Australian composer, Larry Sitsky, by categorising his compositions (1959–2019) into five distinctive ‘periods’. An analysis of Sitsky’s six solo flute works composed between 1959 and 2019 provides a framework for this examination. The near-equidistant placement of the solo flute works within Sitsky’s compositional timeline renders them useful milestones from which to analyse his creative evolution. The underpinning research question asks what identifies the stylistic characteristics of Larry Sitsky’s works across his compositional evolution, as seen through the prism of his six works for solo flute? This research draws upon historical and descriptive musicological methodologies and uses case studies and analysis as the main tools. The stylistic periods are identified through an analysis of the distinguishing compositional influences, devices, and styles used in Sitsky’s compositions at various stages in his career and explores how these characteristics were influenced by extramusical stimuli and contemporaneous compositional developments. Sitsky’s compositional evolution reveals a process of constant and conscious transformation across five periods. First, Sitsky’s “Early Mature Period”, dating from 1959 to 1962, is characterised by his efforts to embrace a more modern idiom in his earliest mature compositions. Second, the “Modernist Period” from 1963–1969 exhibits his exploration of Modernist compositional techniques such as serialism, aleatoricism, and musique concrete. The composer’s adoption of Expressionism and engagement with Asian and mystic stimuli is observable in the “Mystic Expressionism Period” which dates from 1970–1982. Sitsky’s fourth period, the “Armenian Period” traverses the years 1983–1986 and includes a series of works for solo instruments inspired by Armenian folk-music. Fifth, the “Late Mature Period” reveals a neo-romantic though eclectic synthesis of earlier compositional experiments from the years 1987–2019. By exhibiting the characteristics of the five chronological periods, Sitsky’s flute works embody a microcosm of his compositional oeuvre. This thesis also identifies distinctive stylistic qualities that contribute to a ‘Sitskian’ aesthetic, such as: an Expressionistic character, chant topics and portamento; chromatic or bitonal ‘smudging’; irregular rhythms and polymetre; mosaic and episodic forms or improvisatory structures; small recurring chromatic cells; decorative fioritura; the portrayal of a musical progression from one ‘state’ to another; and, the use of non-programmatic extramusical springboards inspired by mystical or mythological sources. By drawing upon an historical examination of Sitsky’s compositional trajectory and artistic context in Australia from the late 1950s until 2019, this thesis situates Sitsky’s compositional periods in relation to several sociocultural developments. While existing scholarship on this composer has explored aspects of his compositional language, none provide a detailed explanation or contextual overview of the compositional shifts. This thesis addresses a scholarly lacuna by clearly identifying the characteristics and context of Sitsky’s stylistic evolution. It also addresses a gap in scholarly engagement with Australian flute music. By connecting the musical analysis to related historical and social aspects, this thesis offers a many-dimensioned illumination of an aspect of this era of art music composition in Australia.
KeywordsLarry Sitsky; Australian composition; Flute composition; Australian flute music; Periodisation; Musicology; Music Analysis; Australia
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