Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

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Stephanie Griffin

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In this dissertation, I address a gap in a great many syntheses of Eastern and Western music, including the crucial moment in Korean music history that brought about revival of traditional music, resulting in the international impetus it has today. In addressing this gap, I chose Younghi Pagh-Paan and her music to initiate a deeper discussion of Korean composers contributing toward the golden age of Korean music, a welcome development in Korean society; it has also heightened pride and respect for the culture and resulted in a robust Korean identity in their music.

I have demonstrated ways in which Pagh-Paan promotes and develops the horizontal quality of Korean traditional music, focusing on melody, most unmistakably through her treatment of the nonghyun of central tones, as embellishments and as vibrato technique. She sees these pitches as more than tones within a structural harmony; they are entities on their own right, as Korean melody stands without regard to harmony. Great emphasis is given to timbral development, recalling the Korean percussion sounds reminiscent of pansori and the Korean string sounds of sanjo.

Eastern Taoist principles, such as jung-joong-dong, and yin and yang, built into Korean musical construction, are also crucial in understanding Pagh-Paan's musical language. Her conscious incorporation of these breathes new life to core elements of Korean music, bringing them closer to audiences who only vaguely knew of their existence. Pagh-Paan aims at writing music that might be understood and identified by all Korean audiences.

Pagh-Paan brings the most basic elements of Korean music together with the more universal, or the modern elements of western music, in several aspects: 1) their advanced techniques; 2) instrumentation for the lower string trio; 3) motivic development; 4) organization around interval relationships; and 5) creation of a harmonic language through intervallic permutations. Her innovations with the mother chord integrate order and coherence into her musical expression. Her mother-chord technique has a basis in Eastern sensibility, the concept of movement within stillness, of Taoist philosophy which opened new harmonic possibilities for composers looking for ideas outside serialism, minimalism, neoclassicism, etc.

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