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Theses Doctoral

Perle Noire: Meditations for Josephine - Aesthetics, Discussion, and Reception

Sorey, Tyshawn

This dissertation, organized in two parts, is comprised of an essay on my song cycle Perle Noire: Meditations for Josephine and its scores. Perle Noire consists of a flexible musical score that I composed for soprano Julia Bullock, select members of the International Contemporary Ensemble, and myself, with two performance editions. The primary edition, which stems from part of a production conceived of by theater director Peter Sellars, includes recited poetry about Josephine Baker by Claudia Rankine and choreography by Michael Schumacher. The second edition is a musical performance with neither poetic texts nor choreography. The world premiere of Perle Noire took place at the 2016 Ojai Music Festival in California, with subsequent performances at Lincoln Center in New York; Da Camera in Houston, Texas; and the Stony Island Arts Center in Chicago, Illinois. The entire performance of the 90-minute song cycle entails the following five recompositions and one “head arrangement” for a mixed ensemble of improviser-performers and soprano: Part I—1. Bye Bye Blackbird, 2. Sous le Ciel d’Afrique, 3. C’est ca le Vrai Bonheur and Madiana (medley); Part II—4. Si J’etais Blanche, 5. C’est Lui, 6. Terre Seche (Negro Spiritual). The essay centers on the compositions in Part II of Perle Noire: “Si J’etais Blanche,” “C’est Lui,” and “Terre Seche” (Negro Spiritual). To begin, I briefly discuss my aesthetic exigencies in relation to the Black creative musics initiated during the latter part of the twentieth century as well as the inspiration informing the creation of this song cycle. Next, I discuss the aforementioned songs to demonstrate how my aesthetics play out in this work. Finally, I detail the controversial critical reception of the song cycle’s world premiere performance and my response to it.

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Academic Units
Music
Thesis Advisors
Lerdahl, Alfred W.
Degree
D.M.A., Columbia University
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