In this thesis, I embark on a multifaceted exploration, intertwining philosophical contemplations about music with a detailed analysis of my original contemporary composition, “A Song Below Water.” As a composer, my aim is not just to present a musical piece but to offer readers a comprehensive insight into the inspirations, challenges, and technical intricacies that shape my creative process.
Philosophically, I grapple with the elusive nature of music, recognizing its diverse interpretations across linguistic, biological, psychological, philosophical, historical, anthropological, theological, legal, and medical perspectives. I argue for the fluidity of music’s definition, acknowledging its cultural and contextual variability. In doing so, I emphasize the subjective nature of the musical experience and propose a nuanced understanding that adapts to different cultural contexts.
The heart of this thesis lies in the exploration of “A Song Below Water,” a composition meticulously crafted for piano, alto saxophone, bassoon, timpani, and fixed media. The inspiration for this piece stems from the intriguing sounds of fish and underwater environments. Drawing from a rich tradition that includes renowned composers like Erik Satie, Debussy, and George Crumb, particularly his work “Vox Balaenae,” I position my composition within a broader historical and contextual framework.
The instrumentation of “A Song Below Water” goes beyond traditional acoustic elements, incorporating innovative sound resources. Alongside the conventional instruments, I integrate an inside-the-piano electronic device, underwater recordings using a hydrophone, and sound design synthesis. These elements converge to create a unique auditory experience, pushing the boundaries of conventional musical expression.
Reflecting on my compositional process, I stress the significance of questioning fundamental concepts such as “What is music?” and “Why do I compose?” This introspective approach serves as a guiding force, helping me navigate the complexities of the creative journey. I underscore the value of finding coherence in the midst of challenges, ultimately contributing to the formation of a meaningful and cohesive musical piece.
The form of “A Song Below Water” takes inspiration from the majestic body shape of a whale. This inspiration translates into distinct time durations for each movement, providing a structural foundation for the composition. The rhythm in the piece is influenced by the sounds of underwater creatures, with different sources representing clicks, rhythmic singing, and long, unstable singing.
Innovative technological elements are introduced through two extra-musical devices. A hydrophone captures the sounds of the underwater world, enhancing the composition’s marine ambiance. Additionally, an Arduino-based device, developed as part of an informatics class, brings a technological dimension to the sonic landscape, contributing to the overall richness of the composition.
Engaging with profound philosophical questions about life and the motivations behind composition, I draw inspiration from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Their perspectives on existence and the role of music in providing meaning to life resonate with my own experiences as a composer.
To contextualize my work within the broader landscape of contemporary compositions, I draw parallels with George Crumb’s “Vox Balaenae.” This comparative analysis offers valuable insights into the utilization of unconventional techniques and sonorities, enriching the historical and contextual dimensions of my exploration.
In essence, this thesis seeks to unravel the intricate tapestry of music, philosophy, and creativity. Through a holistic approach that combines theoretical reflections, compositional insights, and historical context, I invite readers to delve into the profound connections between nature, philosophy, and the transformative power of musical expression.