Consolidation, Revolution and Reflection: Music for Trumpet from Three Decades- 1950s, 1970s and 1990s

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This dissertation is a repertoire-driven and instrument-specific study of the stylistic trends in trumpet music in the latter half of the twentieth century. Beginning with the 1950s, works were collected in various settings and a framework was developed for each decade that would fit into a full recital. The framework consisted of one multi-movement work for trumpet and piano, one unaccompanied piece, one composition for three trumpets, one composition for trumpet within a mixed chamber ensemble and one brass quintet. Using this framework from each of the three decades, evolutionary trends, stylistic changes and similarities begin to emerge.

The Recitals:

     Based on the repertoire chosen, I titled the three recitals Consolidation, Revolution and Reflection. In the 1950s the surviving trumpet repertoire shows a consolidation of musical ideas from the 1920s through the 1950s. Largely absent from this repertoire are the experimental threads that have long made the 1950s stand out in twentieth century music history. Most of the pieces that have survived and have retained relevance are neoclassical in style.

     The combination of social and artistic upheaval through the 1960s made the music from the 1970s unique. The pieces presented are all sonically, harmonically and formally unique, from the Stravinsky-esque, neoclassical language of the Allen Molineux’s Sonata, to the sonic exploration of David Cope’s FMS, to the rhythmic complexity and serial technique of Elliott Carter’s Canon a 3. The pieces represent a cross section of the prevailing stylistic tendencies in the trumpet repertoire throughout the decade.

     The 1990s were cast as a decade of Reflection, with pieces that seem inspired by a variety of musical ideas and genres, from minimalism to jazz to the music of Beethoven and even to pop music. The works often use traditional forms with non-traditional harmonic language, or vice versa. 

The Sources:

     Beyond the scores, biographical studies of the composers, and music history texts focusing on the post-World War II era, I use the composers as primary sources. Whenever possible, I contacted the composers and interviewed them about these works and working in these time periods in general.



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