Sunday, February 26, 2012

What is the right dissertation topic? Dance, Dulcimer, Percussion, Theory?

As I stare down at the deadline for finishing my Doctor of Music degree and ponder endlessly on what I should hunker down and do my dissertation on, I realize maybe it is a good time for a blog post.

There are so many collaboration topics and projects I should be posting about in this blog, but I just haven't made the time to do so. So I thought, why not take some time and put down all the ideas I have for a dissertation topic and maybe this will help facilitate the thinking process...?

Topics in chronological order:

1. A Comprehensive Study of the Dance and Music Collaboration "Genre" Postdating Cage and Cunnigham. As you may be saying to yourself, and as my committee said to me about this one; this could be a whole book. Appropriately, I have abandoned this one for now, and hope to get back to it later in life and write that book.

Following in the steps of Carolyn Brown's, "Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham", and works by other authors, I feel there is a need for a user's manual to collaborating between dance and music. John Cage and Merce Cunnigham set a solid genre in motion with their long relationship, and since then there has been an explosion of new works created branching off from this path. A book that interviews collaborators, compiles lists of pieces and artists, defines some common approaches to collaborating, and provides an overall guide to possible ways to begin a collaboration could be very valuable.

2. Research into the trends of contemporary hammer dulcimer repertoire.

This topic is not developed enough in my own mind yet, and as I see it right now, most of the trend is currently coming from me. So I don't think there is enough to run with here...yet.

3. The contributions of composer, Marcin Blazewicz, to contemporary percussion repertoire. Here, I would have analyzed two works by Marcin; "Concerto Rustico for marimba and string orchestra" and "Piece for Two Marimbas", to show the breadth of his contribution to percussion. He is largely unknown in the US, but famous in Poland, and his voice for percussion writing will likely live on for a long time. I would also interview him for this paper, as we are in contact from time to time.

4. This topic idea was similar to # 3, but using the Danish composer, Andy Pape. Andy's output for percussion has been more focused on battery percussion pieces. I would include an in-depth analysis of a couple of his percussion works and attempt to show why his compositional voice resonates so well with percussion instruments.

And finally # 5.

This topic is becoming the most developed in my brain and will likely be where I settle.

A Survey and Analysis of the Use of Hammer Dulcimer in Contemporary Chamber Music. This dissertation will serve to examine and analyze the use of hammer dulcimer in contemporary chamber music from 1978-2006. I have chosen four pieces that utilize a variety of instrumentation with hammer dulcimer, one for each decade starting in 1978. Technical concerns, such as tuning and demands on the performer will be addressed, as well as the role of the instrument in each piece. Other works will be used to hopefully show a change or shift in the importance placed on the hammer dulcimer as an integral role in the texture. Theoretical analysis will be provided for the four pieces, and other repertoire will be presented to support trends on the use of hammer dulcimer.

Signing off to begin writing the outline.