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"Towards a Musical Grammar: Text-Tune Relationships and Reductive Transformations in Ligeti's Sonate pour Viola"

Sonate pour Viola (1991–1994), written by Austrian-Hungarian composer György Ligeti (1923–2006), is an illustrious work written for the viola in the latter half of the 20th Century. The six-movement work is seemingly an enigmatic collection of essays presenting many musical ideas concurrently such as an emulation of Old Rumanian folklore heritage and the implementation of modern mathematics through a fractal lens. This dissertation sets forth an intention to identify unifying themes and compositional processes that connect all the movements together through implementing one analytical treatment. By using reductive analysis to isolate the smallest, replicable cells of each movement, the process of how Ligeti achieves musical metamorphosis unlocks an immense development of the simultaneous ascending and descending lines at both the micro and macro levels throughout all six movements. Inspired by Tabea Zimmermann’s live, premiere performance of the the C-string passages in Mark Koptyman’s Cantus V and influenced heavily by the Lento (Parlando) passage in the first movement of Bela Bartók’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, Ligeti’s six movement Sonata for Solo Viola collectively follows the parlando-rubato then tempo giusto format, highlighting characteristics of the hora lungă, doïna, bocet, lament, colindă, peasant flute tuning, and even Baroque dances. These discoveries help gain an understanding of Ligeti’s inspirations while also providing a guideline for applying the methodology to other 20th and 21st Century pieces influenced by modern mathematics. In addition, the findings have implications for performance practice.

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