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"Finding the proper sequence": Form and narrative in the collage music of John Zorn

Adam J Kolek, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

This dissertation examines the linear sequence of segments in musical collages composed by John Zorn between 1988 and 1993. In addition to the use of processes and associations as unifying elements, these pieces present hierarchical organization and narrative structure. The presence of form and narrative in these works illustrates the capacity of postmodern music to be unified in novel and idiosyncratic ways.^ I examine Zorn's collage pieces using an adapted methodology of paradigmatic analysis and incorporate ideas of musical topics as signifiers of delineation in the works. The segmentation of these works, begun in chapter three, reveals a hierarchical organization where individual musical blocks are organized into larger structures that I call collage phrases. This reveals the presence of hierarchical form in the musical surface, showing that organization in the pieces is not limited to background processes. The collage pieces that utilize this structure are described as exhibiting episodic collage form. Collage phrases in such pieces may also be further grouped together into larger units.^ I examine narrative in the pieces through the idea of idiolects, which I conceive of as approaches and compositional philosophies that are identified through the careful examination of Zorn and his music. Chapter four examines how linear narrative in Zorn's string quartet Cat O'Nine Tails relates to an idea of visual organization that connects to his conception of cartoon music. Chapter five examines how Zorn's album Radio is organized through the idea of the "musical game," a concept in which borrowed materials and techniques are combined with Zorn's musical persona. Songs on Radio reflect this concept progressively over the course of the album.^ This study reveals several things about Zorn's music and about musical postmodernism. First, it illustrates the organization of the musical surface of these works. Second, it highlights linear musical narratives in the pieces. These elements of linear organization operate alongside other non-linear structures in Zorn's music. Finally, it demonstrates the capacity of postmodern music to contain innovative approaches towards musical organization.^

Subject Area

Music

Recommended Citation

Kolek, Adam J, ""Finding the proper sequence": Form and narrative in the collage music of John Zorn" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3589062.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3589062

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