Alexander Bernstein, An investigation of Aaron Copland’s Night Thoughts (1972) through a performative analysis (DMusPerf, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2020)

These details defined Fri Dec 4 12:09:56 2020  edit
 Author:  Bernstein, Alexander 
 Title:  An investigation of Aaron Copland’s Night Thoughts (1972) through a performative analysis 
 Degree, institution:  DMusPerf, Royal Irish Academy of Music 
 Status, year:  accepted, 2020 
 Volumes, pp.:  1 vol (v, 111pp.) 
 Supervisor(s):  Denise Neary  
 Repository:  Royal Irish Academy of Music Library . 
 General specialism:  Musicology: Performance Studies  
 Content, key terms:  Persons:
Genres, instruments: 
Aaron Copland

Since the latter half of the 1900s, large portions of Aaron Copland’s life and work have been researched and documented. However, the majority of the investigations pertain to largescale solo, orchestral, and ballet works written in the middle of his compositional career. In addition, most authors tend to discuss these works within the framework of Copland’s impact on American composition, often ignoring the personal emotions underlying his musical inspiration. Night Thoughts, written in 1972 for the 1973 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, is a late-period piece which has not been completely ignored, but has not been analysed in a detailed way, especially with regard to performers. This thesis fills that void, providing players and listeners with a performance analysis which demonstrates possibilities for shaping, voicing, and timing within each phrase, among other aspects. The analysis proceeds phrase by phrase, with numerous musical examples, in order to instruct readers on an approach to the work which both leads listeners through its structure while vividly portraying Copland’s underlying emotions.

Prior to the analysis itself, a biographical study places Night Thoughts in a detailed context within Copland’s life and oeuvre. The discussion of Copland’s experiences leading to the creation of Night Thoughts is integral to understanding the work’s emotional inspiration and relationships with other works in his output. This study is followed by a discussion of current research on the piece and late-style compositions by other composers which places the performance analysis in a wider context. The second chapter also contains an investigation of the 1973 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition which paints a picture for the work’s premiere by each of the competitors, and also discusses a number of existing recordings. The commercial recordings demonstrate the current performative approaches to the work and provide an interpretative stage in which Copland’s emotions can be further explored. These emotions present in the work are the most important aspects of performative communication, and are the ideas which the following analysis portrays most vividly. Lastly, the overwhelming majority of research suggests that the quality and poignancy of Copland’s compositions declined in his later creative period, and this dissertation works to rid readers and listeners of this allegation. Because of the consistency of quality of Copland’s creative mind throughout his career, this analysis can ultimately be used as a springboard for other projects detailing the performance of his works