Music as Commentary: A portfolio of music compositions and supporting thesis

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis consists of a portfolio of music compositions, a written commentary, and links toaudio-visual recordings of the works submitted. The portfolio comprises eleven musical works: three choral and solo vocal works, five works for chamber forces up to eight instruments, one orchestral work, one work for solo piano, and a work for six pianos. The works presented in the portfolio draw inspiration from visual art and photography, poetry, lived experiences and socio-political events, and other music(s).

In this project, I seek to address questions surrounding: i) the decontextualisation of borrowed, found and existing material, both live and pre-recorded; and ii) how music might reflect society and the communities in which it was created. Specifically, through my work, I look at:

1. musical approaches to subverting preconceived notions of music through parody and mimesis;
2. compositional techniques of fragmentation (‘distillation’), repetition, re-ordering, imitation, collage in my work to explore decontextualisation;
3. intertextuality as a method of creating an embedded or ‘other’ narrative in my work;
4. the influence of the extramusical on musical elements such as harmony, timbre, and structure;
5. and, how modes of semi-improvisation, aleatoricism, and other performer-led compositional approaches has the potential to enhance my creative practice, expand its scope, and unlock new possibilities in my music.

These discussions are contextualised with references to a range of music creators who have proved influential on my work including Caroline Shaw, Julia Wolfe, Nico Muhly, Ted Hearne, Julius Eastman, Gavin Bryars, and Louis Andriessen, particularly their applications of tonality, gesture, form, and orchestration. This project also draws conclusions on the prominence of extramusical inspiration in my music and how varying collaborative practices with professional and non-professional performers, visual artists and literary practitioners has enhanced and informed my creative process.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Bowden, Mark, Supervisor
  • Whiteman, Nina, Advisor
  • Johnson, Julian, Advisor
  • Grime, Helen, Advisor
Award date1 Nov 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 30 May 2023


  • Music
  • Commentary
  • Music Composition

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