Selected vocal and chamber works of Thomas Ades: stylistic and contextual issues

Greenwood, Jacqueline Susan (2013) Selected vocal and chamber works of Thomas Ades: stylistic and contextual issues. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis explores the stylistic traits of Thomas Ades' (b. 1971) early vocal and chamber works from 1989-95 through a series of case studies and places this work into context both in terms of his historical position and his approach to composition in relation to prevalent trends and theories. The first chapter details the aims and objectives of the thesis and reviews relevant literature. Ades is placed in context by looking at his musical career and the composers who influenced him. Compositional traits are identified and analysed and theories relating to postmodernism, references to the past and extra-musical influences are explored in relation to his music. The remaining Chapters 3-7 present close readings and analysis of a selected number of compositions that explore how musical techniques, and Ades' willingness to absorb influences, past and present are brought together to achieve different poetic intentions. In Chapter 3 four early vocal works, two for solo voice and piano, The Lover in Winter (1989) and Five Eliot Landscapes Op. 1 (1990), and two anthems, O thou who dids't with pitfall and gin Op. 3a (1990) and Gefriolsae Me Op. 3b (1990), reveal the compositional techniques that form the basis of his early compositional style and the influence of a range of composers. In Chapter 4 the analysis of three arrangements Les Baricades Misterieuses (1994), Darknesse Visible (1992) and Cardiac Arrest (1995) reveals Ades' approach to timbre, register and texture. An original work, the Sonata da Caccia Op. 11 (1993), explores a forceful confrontation between baroque and contemporary techniques that serves not only to highlight the compositional traits of Ades but also his relationship with the music of Couperin. Chapter 5 focuses on Ades' use of historical genre and formal structures and addresses his engagement with symphonism and sonata form in the Chamber Symphony Op. 2 (1990). Links with surrealism and the metaphorical impact of Ades' realisation of the programme in Living Toys Op. 9 (1993) is considered in Chapter 5. The extent to which music is able to, in terms of musical ekphrasis, represent works of art is considered in two movements from Areadiana Op. 12 (1994) and The Origin of the Harp Op. 13 (1994). One persistent thread that runs through Ades' work is his use of music as a metaphor, the idea that music can express more than itself. Ades engages the use of titles, programmes, literature and the visual arts in order to reinforce this concept. His music reveals a highly systemized approach to pitch organization and an imaginative approach to timbre that reveals an extraordinary sensitivity to tone-colour and register. Rhythmic complexity and temporal layering are also central to his compositional process. In order to expose the way in which individual melodic strands within a texture relate to each other I have developed a way of presenting these layers in graphic form. I use a system of colour-coding that identifies the intervallic character of individual threads within a texture as they either co-operate to create harmony or co-exist to pursue different agendas in terms of intervallic identity and momentum.

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