Registral Space as a Compositional Element: A New Analytic Method Applied to the Works of Ligeti, Josquin, and Beethoven
Burt, Patricia Ann
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The motion of a musical work through registral space is an important element of the listening experience. However, the tools developed for analysis of registral space are limited in number and are generally geared toward the study of 20th century music, where register is more frequently engaged with as an important component of musical structure. In this dissertation, I outline a new method I have created for the analysis of registral space and apply it to three compositions from different stylistic periods: György Ligeti's Continuum (1968), Josquin's "Benedictus" from his Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales (c. 1490-5), and Beethoven's Bagatelle in G major, Op. 126, No. 2 (1824). In so doing, I show how registral form can contribute equally, along with parameters such as melody and harmony, to the meaning of a composition. The first chapter of this dissertation outlines and demonstrates the analytic procedure using a short passage from Frédéric Chopin's C minor étude from Op. 25. Registral space, a conceptual, two-dimensional space created by the coordinates of pitch and time, is represented graphically where pitch is notated along the vertical axis and time along the horizontal axis. From the pitch graph, I define and quantify four types of registral space: positive, upper negative, lower negative, and inner negative space. This data is then used to create a series of graphs that elucidates a composition's registral form at both global and local levels. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 contain full analyses of the Ligeti, Josquin, and Beethoven works respectively. Though these pieces are written in different styles, they share a number of common features with regard to the treatment of registral space. For example, all three pieces exhibit self-similarity at multiple structural levels. Additionally, they each appear to have been conceived with deliberate consideration of the pitch shape's placement within the range of the piece, often employing some form of registral centering or balancing. By considering registral space in a new and meaningful way, this method of analysis can be applied to a diverse body of music and reveals aspects of musical structure that might otherwise remain hidden.