Birkby, Peter R. (2016) A twenty-first century light music composer: sailing on: composing light music in the twenty-first century. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Sailing on is an investigation into how light music has evolved from its origins into a style of music for the twenty-first century. I am a light music composer and a contemporary use of the style is explored in a portfolio of compositions, all in score form, substantiated by an autoethnographical commentary.

Light as a term to describe music was first used in the nineteenth-century to label music that was created for the entertainment of the masses and it was sometimes used to explain the more accessible works of ‘serious’ composers. The music enjoyed a golden age of approximately one hundred years between 1870 and 1970 and this study contextualises light music in respect of the functions that it fulfils and the relationships it has undergone with serious and popular music during the period and to the present day.

Entertainment and accessibility to mass markets are terms used more in relation to commercial music rather than art music and the thesis includes an exploration into the role of light music as part of the industrialised music businesses as well as being at the forefront of technological developments. The relationship between art and money has been difficult for some to reconcile and part of the reason for the criticism and neglect of light music by many in the music establishment and these aspects are considered as part of the contextualisation.

I have identified a number of common musical and expressive elements in light music and an analysis of techniques is presented as a means to describe the characteristics of the style. The works surveyed have been selected from a period that embraces the golden age to the present with examples from records, radio, television, film, games and web based media.

All these influences plus my own experiences in music have been considered during the composition of the portfolio of music that proffers my interpretation of light music for the twenty-first century.

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