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Concepts of time in the works of John Cage, George Crumb, and Toru Takemitsu and implications for performance

Inoguchi, Ikuko (2016). Concepts of time in the works of John Cage, George Crumb, and Toru Takemitsu and implications for performance. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This study explores concepts of time and temporality in the music of three twentiethcentury composers, John Cage (1912-1922), George Crumb (born 1929), and Tōru Takemitsu (1930-1996). This thesis also examines the role that the performer plays in conveying temporal aspects of body of work.

These three composers were interested in nonlinear conceptions of time, which they sought to express in musical terms. I have chosen a selection of works by each composer, which epitomize these conceptions, for in-depth study. I also discuss cultural influences upon conceptions of time, and the meanings of nonlinearity in different contexts.

All three composers were interested in and influenced by Eastern Asian music and philosophy; I investigate the manifestation of this in their music. The expression of temporal nonlinearity presents equal challenges to both composers and performers. With this in mind, I focus on the relationship of the performer to the specific notational practices of each composer. I investigate how this has been realized by earlier performers through a comparative study of recordings.

Where possible, I have consulted primary sources (i.e., sketches and manuscripts) and also articles and programme notes written by the composers in question. Furthermore, I have investigated recorded interviews with composers and expert performers, the latter of which provided valuable insights into composers’ intentions. I also draw upon my experience as a performer.

Following the introduction (Chapter 1) in which Jonathan Kramer’s definition of linearity and nonlinearity is introduced, Chapter 2 considers issues related to musical time and temporality, and to the notation and interpretation of twentieth-century music. Three central chapters 3, 4, and 5 apply these in consideration of the works of Cage, Crumb, and Takemitsu, respectively. Chapter 6 focuses more specifically to the performance of these works, drawing upon the result of earlier chapters. Chapter 7 discusses wider implications of this study through examining Edward Cone’s approach to structure and proportion in performance, Stephan Davies’ view of the proper interpretation of a score, and responding to a question regarding performance ideal addressed by Lydia Goehr.

This research aims to contribute to the knowledge of the analysts of twentieth-century music, and also provides valuable information which can inform future performances of such music.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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