The Influence of American Organ Building and American Hymnody on William Bolcom’s Gospel Preludes for Organ
Bryant, William Fletcher
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This dissertation examines the construction of the American organ and its influence on modern compositions, in particular William Bolcom’s Gospel Preludes. To better understand these compositions, the history of American hymnody and gospel music is studied as it directly relates to the American organs of the time. This dissertation provides players a new perspective on Bolcom’s work in relation to both hymnody and the evolution of the American organ. It investigates the specific innovations of American organ building and provides an in-depth analysis of these works and their performance on an American classic instrument. This investigation will use the development of American hymnody and gospel music as it directly influences specific traits of these works and their relationship to changes on the American organ. After reading this dissertation, performers of these pieces will be able to successfully approach them and add Bolcom to their repertoire list, bringing new life to these compositions for many audiences. Chapter One presents the academic perimeters for the study, identifying the need for academic scholarship on the subject. Chapter Two is a survey of the development of the American organ from the colonial period to the present day, including both theater and Hammond organs. Chapter Three covers the development of American hymnody, tracking musical styles that defined the musical influences of the hymns used in Bolcom’s work. Since the preludes are heavily influenced by the specific style of gospel music, Chapter Four brings the historical aspects of this movement to light and explains how its traits influenced performance practices on American music. Chapter Five is an in-depth investigation of Bolcom’s preludes to illustrate how all three of these elements are necessary to understand the full potential of these works.
- Music