Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joseph N. Straus

Committee Members

Jeffrey Taylor

L. Poundie Burstein

Kyle Gann

Subject Categories



Discussions of the role of politics in Frederic Rzewski's music generally stop at surface elements: the title of the work, the use of a particular song, and guesses as to what left-leaning audience the piece is directed at. Similarly, discussion of the role of improvisation in Rzewski's work begins and ends simply at the mention of its existence. Using transcription and analysis of improvisations from recordings of "Which Side Are You On?" from North American Ballads combined with ideas about modeling from Christian Asplund, musicking from Christopher Small, dialogue from David Bohm, and Rzewski's own writings about music, I demonstrate how the political manifests at every level of the music, enabling listeners and performers to experience a socio-political situation beyond mere sloganeering, and the essential role improvisation plays in creating that experience.


This written work and the composition, "grunt work for the avant-garde," together constitute the author's doctoral dissertation.

Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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