My two greatest intellectual interests have always been music and the natural world. In my doctoral dissertation, I used the music of John Luther Adams to study the intersection of the two, a study at the heart of the emergent field of ecomusicology. In the Introduction, I give an overview of the long and colorful history of Western composers incorporating the natural world into their music through various forms of imitation, representation, recorded quotation, and outdoor location. I also outline an analytical approach derived from the semiotician Jean-Jacques Nattiez, in which the meaning of a piece of music is found not only in its sound or score but also in its compositional processes and in the interpretative processes of listeners. To better describe and understand the latter, I formulate a typology of listening processes.
In each of the six chapters that follow, I analyze one of Adams’s major works—songbirdsongs, Earth and the Great Weather, In the White Silence, Strange and Sacred Noise, The Place Where You Go to Listen, and Inuksuit—in musical detail and evaluate how it might help listeners, in Adams's words, "to re-imagine and re-create our relationships with this planet and all those (human and other-than-human) with whom we share it."
The dissertation was awarded the Barry S. Brook Dissertation Award by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. You may find it here.