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The Six Piano Sonatas of James Sellars: Aspects of Form, Rhythm, Texture, and Style

Description: James Sellars has established himself as one of America's foremost composers whose eclectic style reveals a wealth of influences. His artistic combination of various traditional and avant-garde techniques, along with his sensitive and expert craftsmanship has earned him an important position in contemporary American music. Sellars' compositional styles have encompassed neo-Romanticism, in his early days, through post-serialism and Dada to an eclectic, post-Romantic style utilizing popular elements including electro-acoustic techniques. His extensive catalog of over 150 compositions includes works for orchestra, opera, chorus, dance, chamber, voices with ensemble, solo voice, piano, instrumental solos, band, and media. Sellars' compositions for piano solo span a 38-year period and total 17 works, the most important of which are his six one-movement sonatas, which represent, according to Sellars, "a journey from modernism to post-modernism." Their value lies in their eclectic stylistic approaches, artistic nd technical challenges, and pianistic effectiveness. The first three sonatas, incorporating post-serial elements, fall into a modernist stylistic stance while numbers four through six, in postmodern style, contrast one another drastically. Sonata Brasileira, recalls the broad sweeping gestures of the Romantic period; Sonata V reveals the influence of the absurdist Dada movement; and the last sonata Patterns on a Field, blends minimalism with elements of rock music. These sonatas represent Sellars' significant contribution to the genre of the piano sonata and deserve a position among other important American piano sonatas of the twentieth century. Despite Sellars' numerous successes and highly active performance schedule, no study or research has focused on the composer or any of his works. Taken as a whole, the six sonatas represent an important yet relatively unknown body of twentieth century solo piano literature, which justifiably merit further study and performance. The aim of this dissertation is to provide an introduction to the composer and present a study ...
Date: August 2003
Creator: Solomons, John
Partner: UNT Libraries