Laurence Osborn (KCL) - 2018-19 Students

Storytelling Strategies as a Source for Compositional Principles

My portfolio of compositions and accompanying commentary will explore strategies of storytelling as sources for compositional principles. My research will hinge on a conception of storytelling as the mutable interaction between narrative (a story’s form), and narration (the enacted perspective from which the story is told). As Carolyn Abbate and Anthony Newcomb have shown in their analyses of Wagner and Schumann respectively, the ways in which these concepts can be applied in traditional tonal contexts are diverse, complex, and ripe for interrogation. Recently, Michael L. Klein, Nicholas Reyland, Vincent Meelberg and others have drawn on narrative and narration in analysis of non-tonal and post-tonal music, indicating that notions of storytelling have much to offer even in the absence of hierarchical tonal systems.

My aim is to build on these critical developments by devising compositional strategies based on storytelling. I intend to explore types of narrative (such as dramatic, tragic, ironic, and episodic) in the rendering of large-scale forms, and modes of narration (such as reliable and unreliable voices) through the interplay of diverse musical elements (including instrumentation, register, and texture) and the juxtaposition of topics and genres. This will allow me to examine, in practice, myriad potential interactions between narrative and narrator, ranging from cooperation, to contradiction, to ambivalence. My project will culminate in the composition of a large-scale music-theatre piece, in which contrasting approaches to storytelling collide and intermingle. This will be complemented by five smaller instrumental and vocal works, each providing a context for me to examine particular relationships between narrative and narrator. The accompanying commentary will reflect critically on the compositions and consequently, the overarching implications that my compositional approach has for contemporary music in both stage and concert contexts.

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