Theses Master's

Repetition, Reception, Response: Minimal Music and the Use of Affect in Analysis

Saccomano, Mark

Affect reorients our approach to expressivity in music. Instead of searching for emotions embedded in the music, we can consider the moment of reception and begin to associate affective responses with musical structure. This approach differs from one that supposes an emotion is felt after the significance of a musical event is consciously apprehended. Music analysis typically shies away from affect; it is often considered too close to emotion, and therefore too subjective, to be treated as an appropriate object of study.

In this paper, I use repetition as an entry point into a discussion of how the affective response of the listener plays a key role in identifying and understanding musical structures. In the first analysis, an early Steve Reich piece, I look at how affect can anchor our interpretation of a work’s repetitive elements and their timbral characteristics. For example, the analysis shows how beating phenomena are perceived to be a musical component of the piece rather than an unwelcome artifact of electronic performance. The second analysis, a late chamber work by Morton Feldman, looks at how the perception of similarity and identity is linked to the work’s ability to guide our attention to different aspects of structure.

In the third analysis, an electronic composition by Ryoji Ikeda, I examine how the piece calls for an embodied approach to music reception, one that explicitly recognizes the role of affect in perception. Such an approach is necessary in order to notice the presence of recurring musical motives and account for the unexpected reconfiguration of the listening space that the work provides.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Kozak, Mariusz S.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
April 22, 2019


Key words: Musical repetition, Affect, Space, Music Analysis, Embodied Perception