Patterns of Influence: Steven Stucky as Orchestrator

  • SCHREIBEIS, Matthew Wayne (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


When the renowned American composer Steven Stucky died in 2016, he left behind a body of creative work—orchestral, chamber, and vocal music, which has yet to be fully assessed. Among the limited number of previous studies of Stucky’s music, most have focused on individual compositions from either analytical or performance practice perspectives. What they lack is a more holistic assessment of Stucky’s compositional style. This proposed research seeks to bridge aspects of the existing analytical and performance practice approaches while addressing the broader style question with a focus on Stucky’s orchestrational technique: a study of the detailed orchestrational choices and patterns that reveal the composer’s timbral palette.

The first stage of the project will be devoted solely to Stucky’s Second Concerto for Orchestra, one of his most popular works, which received the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. Allusion to other compositions, in particular twentieth-century masterworks, is an important element of this work. In fact, a number of specific works are cited by Stucky in his program note. The task of the first stage of the project, therefore, will be to “uncover” these direct influences through a series of precise analyses, in order to describe their scope and function and clearly outline the key elements of Stucky’s approach to orchestration in a representative example of his mature work.

The second stage of the project will apply these findings to Stucky’s broader orchestral output of approximately two dozen works for full orchestra, spanning 1977 to 2012. By considering the entire output, the goal of the second stage will be to trace the development of Stucky’s orchestrational technique, providing further nuance to the key elements outlined in the first stage of study. In addition to musical analysis, the research will be informed by study of the Steven Stucky Papers at the Library of Congress.

The findings of this research will be outlined in two published articles, one for each respective stage and focus of the project. The longer-term goal of the research is to treat these articles and broader findings as a pilot study for a comprehensive monograph on Stucky’s life and work. As this proposed research will be the first to address what is the most essential unanswered question in any future Stucky studies, namely a clear assessment of his style or compositional voice, the project will be influential to composers, theorists, musicologists, performers, and a general music audience.
Effective start/end date1/09/2031/08/22


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