Horizon: for wind ensemble : creating narrative in post-serial tonality

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Harchanko, Joseph

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Present trends in composition present unique challenges and opportunities for the development of symphonic style. Post-modern and post-serial composers have an unprecedented freedom to use musical elements from the near and distant past to synthesize a new style and a new approach to tonal construction. This freedom of choice provides an opportunity to create a uniquely expressive musical language that has the potential to add an important new chapter in the historic development of symphonic style. The primary focus of this treatise is an original work for wind ensemble entitled “Horizon.” The goal of “Horizon” was to create a symphonic, post-tonal work incorporating elements of minimalism in a heroic narrative in a consistent and expressive musical language. Specifically, “Horizon” synthesizes the concept of nineteenth-century motivic transformation and twentieth century post-tonal harmony. It employs a fresh approach to what I believe is capable of supporting large-scale structures. The accompanying theoretical paper is divided into two sections. The first section explores the development of the symphonic style in common practice tonality, its inherent narrative and monumental qualities, and the relation between high and low level structures. The second section presents an analytical method that is a hybridization of set theory and tonal root movement analysis. This analytical method is then applied to “Horizon,” demonstrating tonal function and narrative structure in a post-serial work. The expression of narrative qualities in symphonic style is purely musical. It is from this perspective that “Horizon” functions as a heroic narrative in which the musical elements, rather than programmatic characteristics, engage in a dialectic struggle. The structural framework of musical motifs is used to create a narrative that exists within its own consistent language; a language which both incorporates historical allusions and creates something unique to this moment in music history.