The University of Aberdeen is offering two funded PhD scholarships in composition. The successful applicants will work with Paul on the projects below.
Music and Narrative in the 21st Century
Music and stories have complemented and co-developed with each other since the beginning of human communication and cultural expression. The first epic poems and ancient dramas in Greece, setting the standard in classical drama for millennia to come, were most likely sung. The marriage of music, drama and visual art through opera was referred to by Wagner as the “ultimate art form” at the height of the romanticism of the 19th century. Twentieth-century modernism pushed the boundaries of both music and narrative arts with the introduction of technology, allowing for incorporation of recordings and visual media, and a wider variety of musical styles contributing to concert music. The prominence of non-diegetic film music and musical theatre (both on the stage and screen), particularly in recent years, shows the public’s natural affinity for stories told through combination of drama and music, even as the popularity of concert music allegedly declines. Therefore, this innovative PhD research project in vocal or choral music composition will focus on 21st century concert music and narrative in order to further explore and revitalise the relationship between music and linguistic narrative.
Oratorio in our time
To research and create an oratorio commenting on historical events of our time. While operas have historically often been based on mythology or classical drama, there have been notable examples of opera depicting modern history, such as John Adams’s operas Nixon in China, Dr. Atomic and The Death of Klinghoffer. Whittall argues that these stories are compelling for us because of the dichotomy, again, between reality and dramatic imitation of reality (Whittall, 2008). An oratorio or passion-formatted large-scale work depicting a modern history figure or event has the potential to be even more powerful because these formats feature third-person narrative or a chorus commenting on events taking place, whereas opera typically does not. In a culture where so many feel entitled to comment on all events of the day through social media and other avenues, a depiction of a modern event, while simultaneously commenting on that event in a large-scale musical work could entice the listener to see and relate to modern history in new ways.
These projects are funded by a University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. An Elphinstone Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees, whether Home, EU or Overseas. Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. For more information use the Find Out More links on the projects above.