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O'Shea, Patrick Michael

A Stylistic and Structural Analysis of Russell Woollen's La Corona

D.M.A. Arizona State University, 1995

The study consists of a stylistic and theoretical overview of Russell Woollen's choral setting of La Corona, a sequence of seven holy sonnets by John Donne. Elements emphasized in the study include the relationship of poetic structure to musical constructs and a survey of the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic components of Woollen's setting. Stylistic elements are investigated according to guidelines developed by Jan LaRue, and the harmonic analyses are modeled on David Neumeyer's adaptation of Hindemith's analytical methodology. The analysis reveals that Woollen's compositional process in the work is governed strongly by the needs of the text, resulting in a melodically based musical syntax. Rhythmic and harmonic elements remain flexible and subservient to textual inflection, resulting in a musical language that is fluid at the level of surface detail, including frequently changing meters. However, the initial impression of rhythmic freedom is countered by conservative melodic writing, an essentially tonal harmonic language, and the presence of more subtle macrorhythmic approaches to the organization of tempi and textures. Even in the face of the complexity of Donne's sonnets, Woollen's remarkable sensitivity to textual needs, coupled with his musical craftsmanship, yields an expressive, challenging, and uniquely beautiful extended a cappella work.