Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


School of Music

Committee Chair

Andrew Kohn

Committee Co-Chair

Cynthia Anderson

Committee Member

Melissa Bingmann

Committee Member

Matthew Heap

Committee Member

Travis D Stimeling


The American composer John Adams, born in 1947, has composed a large body of work that has attracted the attention of many performers and legions of listeners. In addition, this work has drawn the attention of scholars intent on understanding its historical and theoretical context.;Among the theoretical writings are two papers by Catherine Pellegrino: Formalist Analysis in the Context of Postmodern Aesthetics: The Music of John Adams as a Case Study of 1999, and its offshoot article Aspects of Closure in the Music of John Adams of 2002. In these writings she conducts analyses of music by John Adams in order to determine if it is understandable in terms of formalist musical analysis, specifically by the metrics of closure and hierarchy. Closure is attained through pattern-completion. Hierarchy is attained through organic generation of surface content from background content of a single idea; Schenkerian theory and analysis is the classic means of demonstrating this.;Pellegrino ultimately determines that Adams "problematizes closure", and when she attempts to abstract the large scale tonal organization of a number of works by Adams in order to determine if a logical hierarchy is consistently operative, she asserts that the analyses fall short "with regard to the requirement of comprehensiveness".;In addition, music composed by John Adams later in his career can be characterized as disunified as a consequence of an intuitive compositional approach documented by researcher K. Robert Schwarz, and demonstrated through analyses by Pellegrino. For Pellegrino, these disunified works are inaccessible via the methods of formalist analysis, nor is there a good theory of disunified music to apply to them as well.;The purpose of this research paper is to demonstrate that there is music by Adams that is formalist, specifically Phrygian Gates (1977-1978), and that its formalism can be corroborated by testing for closure and hierarchy by analytical means.;The purpose of this paper is also to show how works by Adams that are non-formalist and disunified can be rendered analytically accessible. This will be accomplished by first determining the goals appropriate for analyzing disunified music, and by providing a historical context for disunified music in practice and theory; and secondly by creating a method for analyzing non-formalist music, applying the method to two works by Adams, including Century Rolls (1996) and Son of Chamber Symphony (2007), and summarizing the results.