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Abstract

Throughout Western music from the 1960s until today—in genres and epochs ranging from concert music, to experimental albums in popular music, to goofy YouTube videos—we can hear a peculiar phenomenon: musical works in which the music is organized around sound recordings of speech. Works like these present an interesting opportunity to return to the age old question, what does music have in common with natural language? Furthermore, how can the two competing organization systems of sound found in natural language and music work together? How do composers and musicians deal with conflicts between the resulting sounds of each organizational system? What is the role of the speaker and the composer and musicians in the work of authorship in such music? This dissertation seeks to answer these questions and in doing so it will dig deeper into the relationship between sound, music, and its human agents in modern Western music.I’m particularly interested in music that relies on recordings of speech because these recordings allow for a repeatability, a set of fixed moments in pitch and time that, I propose, these musicians and composers analyze musically in order to sort them into the musical structure. This dissertation has two major parts. In the first, I survey the music, across genres and art vs. popular distinctions, and uncover particular compositional strategies that composers and musicians use to musicalize speech. In the second part, I take a closer look at individual approaches to the musicalization of speech, exploring 1) the role of the speaker as a collaborator—distanced by time and space—in creating the structure of the musical work, and 2) the impact of outside influences on the composers, from speakers to other composers to musical styles, on the resulting musical works.

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