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Durham e-Theses
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'Experiments with Sonata Form': A Critical Study of the Absolute Music of Herbert Howells and Its Place in Modern British Music.

CLINCH, JONATHAN,DAVID (2015) 'Experiments with Sonata Form': A Critical Study of the Absolute Music of Herbert Howells and Its Place in Modern British Music. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 18 March 2020.


Taking its title from an essay (now lost) by the composer, this critical study evaluates and contextualizes the substantial volume of absolute music that sits outside the body of well-known church music for which Herbert Howells (1892-1983) is celebrated today. Within a narrative which is both analytical and historical, it traces and examines the essentially empirical development of his compositional processes, techniques, models and stylistic influences in detail for the first time and places it within a structure of three creative periods. In particular the study devotes attention to Howells's manipulation of formal principles across a range of instrumental genres – the solo sonata, the suite, concerted chamber music and concerto – and explores the composer's intellectualist predilection for structural compression and conflation at various architectonic levels. The discussion also focuses on Howells's use of tonality and its intrinsic, generative interrelationship with thematic material.

Ultimately a case study in modernism and the British creative imagination, the thesis also examines aspects of Howells's reception history, the death of his son and the substantial BBC lecture series 'The Modern Problem', all three elements of which provide significant illumination of Howells's complex development as an instrumental composer, his musical Weltanschauung, his attitude to European contemporary music and how this adds significantly to a commentary on his own stylistic formation during a fragmented twentieth century.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Herbert Howells; sonata form; British music; English music; absolute music; modernism; musical modernism; Howells; The Modern Problem
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Mar 2015 11:47

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