Canter, David V. (2014) A narrative approach to composition. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Progress in utilising ideas from the study of narratives as an approach to composing is explored. The initial objective was to develop the technical skills for composing music drawing on different narrative forms. This investigated narrative as an innovative way of thinking about musical structure. As the compositions developed it became apparent how naïve that objective was. This thesis therefore explores the emergence of an understanding of the sequential structure that I find satisfying in my compositions.

Six pieces, for various instrumentation, are presented as stages in the development of these explorations. The successes and failures of each of these pieces elucidate the strengths and weaknesses of different aspects of this narrative approach to contemporary music. In the early stages of these explorations the requirements of content (‘character’ in story telling) and form or structure (‘plot’ in narratives) emerge as fundamental challenges to the process of composing. These challenges are revealed in an early piece that attempts to reflect fundamental narrative themes. The extra-musical framework limits the success of the piece.

Subsequent compositions start from more clearly musical origins with increasing success. They include explorations of how the form of a composition can encompass variations in texture as well as development of thematic material. The Stravinsky paradox that the abstract nature of instrumental music means it cannot refer to anything outside of the music itself, whilst the power of much music often comes from such external references, emerges as the central dilemma that my composing processes seek to resolve.

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