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Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music from 1960-2000$
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Laurel Parsons and Brenda Ravenscroft

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190236861

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190236861.001.0001

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Joan Tower, Silver Ladders (1986)

Joan Tower, Silver Ladders (1986)

Chapter:
(p.67) 4 Joan Tower, Silver Ladders (1986)
Source:
Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music from 1960-2000
Author(s):

Jonathan W. Bernard

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190236861.003.0004

Although at first glance Joan Tower’s orchestral work Silver Ladders (1986) might seem to follow a well-established twentieth-century tradition of “octatonicism,” closer analytical examination reveals compositional uses of the octatonic collection that are quite original. A typology is developed that makes distinctions between employment of the octatonic in just one of its transpositions and the projection of two or even all three transpositions at once, and that identifies mechanisms by which one transposition can be gradually transformed into another or into non-octatonic collections such as the total chromatic. This typology is applied to analysis of passages of varying length, permitting provisional conclusions to be reached concerning form. The final section of the essay offers some musings on the significance of these analytical findings in light of Tower’s comments on her attitudes toward composition in general and on her working methods in particular.

Keywords:   Joan Tower, Silver Ladders, analysis, octatonic, octatonicism, transposition, form, compositional method

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