An examination of 1920s Parisian polytonality : Milhaud's ballet La création du monde

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2007-05

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the role of polytonality in Milhaud’s works of the 1920s. It is accomplished through a contextual examination of the cultural meaning of polytonal music in Paris and a study of contemporary analytical techniques for this repertoire. The goal of this study is to facilitate the analysis of polytonal textures that are embedded at both the foreground and background levels of Milhaud’s compositions. Chapter 1 examines the attitudes of Parisian critics, scholars, and musicians regarding the viability of polytonality as a musical practice in post-war France. Chapter 2 discusses Milhaud’s views and compositional procedures of polytonality, including his response to the Parisian polytonal debates. Chapter 3 explores recent scholars’ forays into the analysis of Milhaud’s polytonal works. These studies primarily explain Milhaud’s polytonality through three methods: pc set analysis, descriptive analysis, and linear analysis. Chapter 4 analyzes Milhaud’s La Création du monde in a polytonal context through the application of Joseph N. Straus’ theory of tonal axes, Charles Koechin’s jalón vertical, and linear analysis.

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