Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Hugo Weisgall

Committee Members

Henry Weinberg

H. Wiley Hitchcock

Steve Larson

Carl Schachter

Sherman Van Solkema

Subject Categories



The dissertation consists of two parts, an analytical essay and a composition.

The essay starts from the fact that the musical worth of the Rhapsody in Blue has often been questioned, despite its having been a fixture of the repertoire since its premiere. A close (Schenkerian) analysis shows the flaws of the piece in detail. It also reveals considerable structural coherence, however, comprising very sophisticated treatment of motives in the foreground and middleground, and, in the background, the unfolding of a tritone as the boundary of a tonic that is both B-flat major-minor and a whole-tone collection. Since Gershwin was mostly untrained at the time and the Rhapsody was his first large work, the question arises as to how he was able to achieve such sophistication. The answer proposed is that through improvisation he was able to tap his great talent, though lacking the technique to write a completely convincing work. The essay concludes with a brief consideration of Schenker's concept of talent as it relates to our our ability to comprehend music in general, particularly in light of recent thought about cognition.

In form, the composition falls somewhere between a cantata and a monodrama (overlaid with elements of the Mass) for solo tenor and chorus (SATB). It is scored for flute (piccolo, alto), B-flat clarinet (E-flat soprano, bass), E-flat alto saxophone, percussion (one player), celesta, piano, electric piano, and organ (two keyboard players), violin (viola), and cello.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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