Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Huzuni is a composition for a sinfonietta ensemble comprised of flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, two percussion instruments, piano, violin, viola, violoncello, double bass. The inspiration for it began when I was told that my music was too guarded and that a greater degree of emotion was needed. Such a critical response led me to reflect on compositional techniques, styles, and approaches that were outside of my comfort zone, all of which became the inspiration for this work.
Huzuni, Swahili for grief, , is a thirteen-minute single movement work in three sections that reflects the raw emotions in dealing with grief. The form of the composition exposes the five stages of grief-denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance- first introduced in 1969 by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who founded the Kübler-Ross Model. In Huzuni, we move through each stage slightly differently than in the grief model. The first section establishes denial that leads directly into the bargaining stage. Throughout this movement, g minor provides a sense of denial of truth, achieved in part because the traditional and expected g minor tonic-dominant-tonic progression is replaced with i-v-vi. This replacement weakens g minor and sets up different expectations for the listener.
The second section begins with “depression” and transitions to “anger.” Throughout this section, dissonance is emphasized and helps to suppress a clear and perceivable tonal center. “Depression” functions as a bridge that slowly and gradually simulates a sense of despair. When juxtaposed against the first section, it shows us that consciousness can be related to tonality and unconsciousness to atonality. Although the second section might be considered the lowest emotional point of the work, I attempted to imbue it with a sense of humor that represents the working through of difficulties while never losing faith.
The third and final section exposes the idea of acceptance which is achieved by a juxtaposition of sections one (g minor) and three (B major). The ascending third relationship between their two keys suggests the triumphant climb from a depressed state into a state of acceptance that is finally resolved, in the coda, in the key of E major simulating the sense of moving on.
The work relies on processes drawn from electronic music in which sound masses are transformed by adding or subtracting discrete variables, or single parameters of sound and time: pitch, rhythm, and dynamics. For example, bars 111-127 contain a rhythmic figure in the piano that slows down and is transformed into a sound-mass. That sound-mass is then orchestrated throughout different instrumental groupings, creating a spatialized musical effect where the phasing of the sound mass from one instrumental group to the next changes the way the listener experiences the piece. Passing the main melody from one instrumental group to another quickly creates a three-dimensional listening space where the listener can experience a change in timbre in addition to the isolation of the harmonic series as the melody passes through each group.
Throughout the compositional process I attempted to incorporate the elastic properties of time and space made possible using the tools found in 8-channel electronic music. These tools were incorporated by manipulating both chordal progressions and orchestration as illustrated in the previous paragraph. Such a musical effect spatializes sound by diffusing energy evenly throughout a performance environment. The result is an immersive listening experience, in which sound is generated from specific directions at precise times, different from the standard front and center direction we have come to expect.
Elastic Properties, Grief, Kuber-Ross Model, Sinfonietta Ensemble, Spatialization, Tension
ix, 62 pages
Copyright © 2018 Bernard Kashmere Short
Short, Bernard Kashmere. "Huzuni." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2018.