Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. John Cuciurean


The music of George Crumb has been analyzed using a variety of analytic methods including pitch-class set theory, transformational theory, intertextual analyses, and various tonal and Schenkerian approaches. The results of these types of analyses invariably identify certain consistencies in Crumb’s compositional style within a single work or volume of similar works, but often are unable to relate or compare procedures between different works.

In the present study, I propose a transformational model that accounts for characteristic gestures in numerous works by Crumb. Unlike many transformational models of twentieth-century music, the proposed model does not require significant alterations for each work, and is able to model transformations between sets with a cardinality of three through twelve. Because of the relatively stable nature of this model, it is possible to compare gestures within and between different works in a manner analogous to comparisons of functional progressions in tonal music.

In the introductory chapter, the basis for a functional model of Crumb’s music is introduced, and the scope of the study is defined. In the second chapter, certain characteristics of Crumb’s music identified by other scholars such as trichordal structures, referential collections, and the principles of opposition and completion are discussed. Based upon these characteristics, the model of octatonality is proposed and defined in the third chapter. The fourth and fifth chapters include analyses of Crumb’s A Haunted Landscape (1984) and “Come Lovely and Soothing Death...” from Apparition (1980) as representative examples of octatonality. Crumb’s sketch materials for these and other related works are included to provide support for segmentation as well as octatonic considerations. In the concluding sixth chapter, the functional designs of these examples are compared.

The generic model, divorced from the octatonic collection, offers a method to compare different works at various functional levels where the intervallic components of the music, a limited pitch-class set vocabulary, and an underlying functionality are perceived as fundamental features of the music. The utility of the generic model in analyzing Crumb’s non-octatonic works is demonstrated and an extension of the generic model for the analysis of music by other composers is suggested.

Included in

Music Theory Commons