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Composing with theories of emotion in music: a critical commentary

Curington, David (2015) Composing with theories of emotion in music: a critical commentary. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This thesis is given in the form of an exploratory commentary centred on my readings of theories of emotion in music which have directly informed compositional procedures. Rather than presenting a set of compositional techniques as supposed embodiments of certain theories of emotion in a compositional setting, this commentary charts developments in my own compositional thinking and practice which have arisen as a result of a personal engagement with these theories. My role as a musical listener is a key factor in this engagement: it allows me to provide evidence which may validate the theories as viable compositional informants and also allows me to reflect on the musical products of my engagements with the theories to inform further compositional action. The thesis begins by exploring my compositional motivations for, and usage of, linear processes in Chapter 2, before an exposition of a compositional scenario where these processes are nested to allow them to shape different structural levels in Chapter 3. The fourth chapter is concerned with a compositional application of Leonard Meyer’s work on emotion in music which is centred on the concept of a musical expectation, before Chapter 5 explores alternatives to this model. Chapter 6 then considers my work composed in the wake of these theoretical engagements, and viewed in relation to them.

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