Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Gompper, David K

First Committee Member

Gompper, David

Second Committee Member

Levine, Josh

Third Committee Member

Charles, Jean-François

Fourth Committee Member

Arndt, Matthew

Fifth Committee Member

Stanton, Zachary

Sixth Committee Member

Platte, Nathan


While Converging functions as an expression of the human experience of earnestly seeking comprehension and discernment of available information in an era in which the plurality of conflicting information is prominent. The recent rapid advancements achieved in communication technologies have made a dramatic impact on the experience of interpersonal communication, including the mass increase of the dissemination of information and ideas through unofficial sources. The resulting convergence of disparate philosophical and intellectual ideologies is currently a cause of conflict in interpersonal relationships among many individuals, as well as globally. These conflicts are largely found within the dialectic of Nationalism (traditional locale or heritage specific ideologies) and Universalism (the global convergence of ideologies). To seek enlightenment through research and communicative means in such an environment is an endeavor of great complexity. While one typically seeks to clarify their personal understanding, it is not uncommon that obfuscation acts as the source of enlightenment by becoming an opposition to ignorance and naivety – expressions of clarity that lack enlightenment. The difficulty, excitement, frustration, confusion, and the multitude of further often nuanced experiences involved in such an endeavor is expressed through While Converging.

For this work, I have constructed a system of interrelated pentachords that features ten primary pentachords in two sub-groupings of five. Additionally, ten secondary sets are derived from the primary pentachords by intervallic diminution, dividing each interval in half. The resulting secondary pentachords are microtonal in nature, thereby functioning as a contrasting harmonic space to the primary sets. When a third operation is applied to the primary pentachords, augmenting each interval by one half, then inverting intervals larger than a tritone, and lastly, putting the resulting sets in normal order, all the primary pentachords transform into subsets of one symmetrical pentachord – a diminished triad, plus the quarter-tone pitches found symmetrically between each minor third. This relationship is revealed only once, in a discreet manner, toward the end of the piece. Through this piece-specific system of pitch organization, a dialectic of clarity and obfuscation is presented by sequencing, reorganizing, and layering the aforementioned groups, sub-groups, and individual pentachords. Movement toward or away from clarity is achieved through these means and is symbolic of the struggle one experiences in pursuit of comprehension.

This work is organized in three movements that cohere to form a continuity. Each movement is distinct in its aesthetic as well as its approach to representing the dialectic of clarity and obfuscation. The first movement focuses on textural transformation, using pitch organization and density of texture as the primary means of movement within the clarification/obfuscation dialectic. The symbolic focus of this movement is on the accumulation of vast quantities of disparate information and ideologies, and the difficulty of accounting for discrepancies in acquired information. Presented through mosaic-like orchestration, dovetailing melodic segments gradually culminate into a massive collage- like texture. At the pinnacle of textural growth, a sudden shift away from linearity occurs, in favor of a focus on vertical sonorities and density of rhythmic attacks.

The second movement is slow, with harmony and melody as focal points. In this movement, melodic design functions as an alternative representation of the clarification/obfuscation dialectic. Through this aesthetic focus, a sense of naivety and intimacy is implied, alluding to the influence of nationalism and intimate interpersonal communication. Sustained chords gradually transform from one to another as melodic fragments emerge aperiodically. Approximately mid-way through the movement, a rhythmic groove is established, over which melodic design is revealed in a more complete fashion, exploring the clarity/obfuscation dialectic via its relationship to the previously presented melodic fragments.

In the final movement, there is a focus on succinct and discrete groupings of musical events. Here, discreteness/continuousness of musical events, as well as rhythmic unity/disparity are presented as new dialectics, through which clarification/obfuscation is represented. The expansion of the number of musical parameters reflecting the clarification/obfuscation dialectic illustrates the complex nature of seeking enlightenment. Discrete musical events gradually expand in duration, leading to overlaying musical events that culminate in a climatic section in which direct repetition illustrates an apex of intellectual frustration. Nonetheless, the following section, prominently composed of sustained sonorities, presents a gradual reduction of energy while moving toward clarity in all respects; ultimately implying the possibility of a comprehensible resolution.


Composition, Music


x, 115 pages


Copyright © 2018 Jacob Paul Simmons

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