Extramusical elements in selected viola music of Libby Larsen: Representation, suggestion, and abstraction
Lewis, Katherine Jean
Doctor of Musical Arts
Throughout her career, American composer Libby Larsen has drawn on a wide variety of extramusical influences in both her texted and non-texted compositions. This thesis focuses on the manner in which Larsen has incorporated these extramusical influences into selected chamber works with viola. It traces the progression from representational and programmatic works written at the beginning of Larsen's career through a middle period of "suggestive" compositions (roughly coinciding with an important residency with the Minnesota Orchestra in the mid 1980's), to abstract compositions written in recent years. Additionally, it illustrates that while the way in which Larsen has incorporated outside sources in her works has changed, her compositional interests continue to be heavily drawn from American musics, the rhythm and pitch contour of American English, and American landscapes. To demonstrate this progression, four works from Larsen's catalog, Black Roller (1981), Cajun Set (1980), Black Birds, Red Hills (1987/1996), and the Viola Sonata (2001) have been identified and analyzed with reference to her use of extramusical elements. General features of Larsen's style are highlighted and compositional connections are drawn between these works and other chamber pieces by Larsen. Additionally Larsen's compositional philosophy and influences are outlined along with relevant biographical information, as each work is presented within the framework of Larsen's career. Appendixes containing errors in the published scores and selected viola fingerings used by James Dunham in the premiere of the Viola Sonata are also included as a resource for musicians interested in performing these works.