Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Catherine Nolan


In his 1963 treatise, Penser la musique aujourd’hui, Pierre Boulez proposes that there should be no distinction between serial materials and large-scale form. After his self-professed failure with Structures 1a and Polyphonie X due to the incapacity of the twelve-tone series to provide form in and of itself, Boulez reassessed and expanded his compositional approach to include what he refers to as “indiscipline,” which permitted him a new freedom to modify his materials as he saw fit through a plethora of new techniques, and to link these materials to large-scale forms that take their inspiration largely from literary influences. This investigation seeks to concretize Boulez’s proposed relationship between serial content and large-scale form in “Don” (1962) and “Tombeau” (1959), the framing movements of Pli selon Pli, largely by establishing the nature of their formal organization and the origin of the serial materials used in their construction. The course of this investigation traces the developmental history of materials used in “Don” and “Tombeau” which includes analyses of materials used in the unpublished Oubli signal lapidé (1952), the retracted drama L’Orestie (1954–55), the unpublished work for solo flute Strophes (1955–56), the Troisième Sonate (1955–57), Le Marteau sans maître (1953-55) and the inner movements of Pli selon Pli: the “Improvisation[s] sur Mallarmé I, II, and III” (1957, 1957, and 1959 respectively). The materials developed for “Don” and “Tombeau” are largely continuations of different lineages of serial materials developed for these earlier works and form constellations of structurally related materials that persist beyond the boundaries of individual works. Taken together, the works composed during the period 1952–62 are the most inspired and creative in Boulez’s compositional history. The trajectory of this investigation incrementally introduces the reader to increasingly larger-scale means of organizing serial materials that culminate in Boulez’s evolving theory of discontinuous musical form. Connections among works and their organizational structure are largely derived from sketch studies undertaken at the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, Switzerland.

Included in

Music Theory Commons