THE ROLE OF NEOCLASSICISM IN GENERALIZING TRADITION: INTEGRATING TEXTURAL, TONAL AND TOPICAL ELEMENTS AT THE KEYBOARD
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While neoclassicism is viewed as a reaction against tonal saturation of late Romanticism, this dissertation discusses an array of works (both within and outside the scope of interwar neoclassicism) that absorbed elements of the aesthetic. Beyond Martha Hyde’s description of the neoclassical impulse as a “metamorphic anachronism,” I propose that it can extend to the following: (1) an opposition (or apposition, as proposed by Marianne Kielian-Gilbert) between specific musical elements, (2) a capitalization on ahistorical aspects of tradition, and (3) a generalization of tradition by placing the predecessor as a special case of a larger phenomenon. The first category is exemplified through chromatic displacement technique in Francis Poulenc and modified dominants in John Ireland, illustrating the coexistence of conventional periodicity with disruptive tonal practices. The second category manifests through non-contemporaneous musical codes, such as the use of musical topics (originally put forth by Leonard Ratner) within a neoclassical framework as points of departure from tradition, or the hypermeasure (proposed by Edward Cone) that capitalizes on Baroque and Romantic-era sequencing. The third category relates to Harold Bloom’s fourth revisionary ratio of a successor de-individuating the predecessor. For example, the generalization of thematic transformation while disregarding thematic character, and the generalization of the asymmetrical Fortspinnung while disregarding metric regularity, are exhibited in the works of Ernst Krenek and Peter Mennin respectively. In summary, this dissertation identifies how neoclassical-leaning composers confront tradition without placing themselves subordinate to their predecessors, forcing the listener to engage at a more fundamental level of musical syntax. The repertoire presented in this dissertation were premiered between 2018 and 2019 in the Joseph & Alma Gildenhorn Recital Hall at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park. Recital recordings are accessible through the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at the University.