Music ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-15-2022


How can contour theory be used to analyze a composer’s setting of a poem? Can this approach provide insights that lead to an interpretation of the composer’s setting of the text? This study presents a new contour theory on text setting by examining two different settings of the same text. This theory examines one aspect of the music, the vocal line, and plots syllable’s locations in two dimensions of music: pitch space and duration. Using these data points, one can suggest an interpretation of the poem. Through the application of this theory to Fanny Hensel and Franz Schubert’s setting of “Du bist die Ruh” by Friederich Rückert and Barbara Kolb and Darius Milhaud’s settings of “Le vitrier” by Stephane Mallarmé, we see how this theory can suggest similar and different interpretations of the same text.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Music

First Committee Member (Chair)

Richard Hermann

Second Committee Member

David Bashwiner

Third Committee Member

Karola Obermueller

Fourth Committee Member

Olga Flora

Fifth Committee Member

Kristin Ditlow




Music Theory, Contour Theory, Vocal Music, Song, Duration, Pitch Space

Document Type