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Cassations : Malcolm Williamson’s operas for musically-untrained children

Humberstone, James Henry Byrne, Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW

2013

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  • Title:
    Cassations : Malcolm Williamson’s operas for musically-untrained children
  • Author/Creator/Curator: Humberstone, James Henry Byrne, Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW
  • Subjects: Opera; Composition; Children; Music; Voice; Analysis; Malcolm Williamson; Cassations
  • Resource type: Thesis
  • Type of thesis: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2013
  • Supervisor: Peterson, John, Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW; Schultz, Andrew, Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW
  • Language: English
  • Print availability: T/2013/401/(1), T/2013/401/(2) &T/2013/401/(3) (Please speak to a staff member at the Library Help Zone)
  • Permissions: This work can be used in accordance with the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.
    Please see additional information at https://library.unsw.edu.au/copyright/for-researchers-and-creators/unsworks

  • Description: Malcolm Williamson's ten cassations, mini-operas devised to introduce children to the operatic form, remain unique in a number of ways. Most importantly they are the only collection of work in this genre by an established art music composer intended for musically-untrained children.Many composers have written children's opera, sometimes as entertainment for children, performed by adults, and sometimes as opera to be performed by children. In the latter case, the great majority of composers write for specific ensembles or schools where music is taught by specialist music teachers to every child.Very few established composers write children's opera for musically-untrained children. Only one has written a series of ten and single-handedly directed them with his own children, in primary schools and church groups, with physically and mentally handicapped children, and even with adult audiences and professional orchestras in the Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House. Williamson's cassations were performed on nearly every continent of the world, hundreds of times, often under his own baton. Largely ignored in the (itself scant) analysis of Williamson's body of work, the collection was of great importance to the composer himself. This thesis fills that void in the literature. It also suggests that the compositional concessions made by Williamson provide a model to other composers interested in writing opera for musically-untrained children. This speaks to the broader question of how composers can modify their compositional approach without losing their ‘voice’.A broad range of analytical methods are considered and compared with existing analyses of Williamson's repertoire for professionals (Gearing 2004; Kendall-Smith 1994; Philpott 2010). Implication-Realisation analysis of melodic expectancy (Narmour 1990, 1992; Schellenberg 1996, 1997) is used in combination with analysis of structure, part writing, vocal support, range, and harmonic language to allow quantitative comparison to the writing for professional vocalists in Williamson's full operas and to summarise his approach to writing for musically-untrained children.

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