Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Norman Carey

Committee Members

Johanna Devaney

David Grubbs

Ursula Oppens

Subject Categories

Composition | Music Education | Musicology | Music Pedagogy | Music Performance | Music Practice | Music Theory | Other Music


Play, games, ludology, ludomusicology, composition, performance


This dissertation aims to explore the intersection of play and games in Western classical music and define a new category of pieces, “ludic pieces,” which contain play structures and game mechanics within their composition. Starting with surveying perspectives in ludology and ludomusicology, including those by Roger Caillois, Johan Huizinga, Jesper Juul, Katie Salen, and Eric Zimmerman, I will examine various definitions of a “game” and what its qualifying aspects are. I will then turn to music and consider pieces that interact with play and games without containing game structures, including examples of musical humor and pieces which evoke the imagery and activity of games and sports. What follows is a definition and taxonomy of ludic pieces, which I hope will serve as a foundation for understanding and classifying various play interactions, including paidia, structured play, and ludus, competitive games. The pieces discussed range from ruled group improvisation to single-player games versus computer and showcase the range of possibility at this crossroads. I will also acknowledge considerations and issues regarding the rehearsal and performance of ludic pieces from both sides of the stage, reimagining the composer as game designer, performer as player, and audience as spectator. The dissertation will close with three case studies which will examine in depth the play and game potential within musical works.