Hidden Connections: Exploring extra-musical and existing musical materials through a portfolio of compositions

Kelvin Thomson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis consists of a portfolio of eight compositions, an accompanying commentary
and recordings of the works on USB Stick. The portfolio comprises printed scores for a
large orchestra, various small ensembles, vocal music, and a bassoon concerto for youth
The works presented in the portfolio offer new insights into generating musical ideas
by exploring extra-musical and existing musical materials as part of the compositional
process. Extra-musical refers to inspiration and techniques drawn from other disciplines
including poetry, mathematics, science and architecture. Existing musical refers to
rethinking and or incorporating existing music of my own and of others. The
compositions exhibit a gradual move from a systematic and technical approach to a
freer and more instinctive method in which systems are used as starting point
frameworks supporting the search for a more intuitive sonic aesthetic.
The commentary comprises a broad discussion of the creative processes undertaken and
how the portfolio relates to some movements and developments in current
contemporary art music. The portfolio is contextualized with references to practitioners
who have influenced or resonated with my compositional output. These practitioners
include: John Adams, Louis Andriessen and Alfred Schnittke, with particular regard to
their incorporation and acknowledgement of popular music; Luciano Berio and György
Ligeti whose music always sounds faultless in my view; and John Cage’s unique
aesthetic and Elliott Carter’s creative longevity are provocative and stimulating. I
consider all seven to be a joint nexus at the centre of my interest in post-1945
contemporary classical music. I also refer to resonances found in the work of living
composers ranging from Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931) to Holly Harrison (b. 1988).
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Bowden, Mark, Supervisor
Award date1 Sept 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 2020


  • Royal Holloway University of London
  • Kelvin Thomson

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