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    Musical Ruins: a practice-based approach to explore ruin as an aspect of musical borrowing

    Dyer, Mark John (2021) Musical Ruins: a practice-based approach to explore ruin as an aspect of musical borrowing. Doctoral thesis (PhD), The Royal Northern College of Music in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    I have always been fascinated by architectural ruins. Ruin depiction and aesthetics are commonly explored within various disciplines, including archaeology, literary theory and the visual arts. When I first encountered the music of Helmut Lachenmann, whose oeuvre was compared by my then teacher to visiting the ruins of musical history, I was excited by the prospect of marrying these two disparate interests. By using this multidisciplinary perspective, I look to contextualise my own compositional practice of musical quotation. In this portfolio of original compositions, I create ‘musical ruins’ that might establish a listener experience analogous to visiting an architectural ruin. I here define musical ruins as degenerated musical borrowing. Specifically, for the focus of this project, I ruin historical art music. The accompanying commentary seeks to shed light on my creative processes, to provide critical reflections on my practice and situate it within the two conceptual frameworks of ruin and materiality. Each chapter probes a thematic strand within the portfolio, using the compositions presented as examples and case studies. It should be noted that this research is directed primarily at discourses in contemporary music and composition, rather than the rich body of ruin scholarship it draws upon for metaphorical stimulation and reflection.

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