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Elements of Place in the Choral Works of Malcolm Forsyth Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Curtis, Robert A
Supervisor and department
Ratzlaff, Leonard (Music)
Examining committee member and department
Cairns, Debra (Music)
Harder, Lois (Political Science)
Elliott, Robin (University of Toronto, Music)
Schroeder, Angela (Music)
Gramit, David (Music)
Department of Music

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Music
Degree level
The full thesis for this degree consists of this document as well as two public juried recitals, which were given on December 2, 2011 and June 9, 2013, at Convocation Hall, Edmonton, Alberta. The concept of place is complex and has only recently begun to receive serious study, both on its own and in terms of its relationship to music. Ideas of place rely on geography, culture, history, relationships to other places, and relationships between groups of people, and are subjective constructions. The concept of landscape is useful in examining the relationship between people and their biophysical environments; landscapes can be represented in a variety of forms including painting, photography, poetry, prose and music. Elements of place in music take a variety of forms, from obvious surface elements (such as titles and textual references to specific places) to more abstract, subjective elements wherein the composer tries to capture a personal impression or a sense of a place. A variety of approaches to “place” are examined in detail, and instances of manifestations of place in music are explored through the consideration of a number of examples from the choral music of Malcolm Forsyth. Malcolm Forsyth is a composer for whom elements of place are at the forefront of his compositions. Forsyth was born in South Africa in 1936 and immigrated to Canada in 1968, and his music contains many influences from and unique perspectives on both countries. Four representative choral works are analyzed in detail from the point of view of place in music: Auyuittuq (from Northern Journey), The Sea (from Three Partsongs), Music for Mouths, Marimba, Mbira and Roto-toms, and A Ballad of Canada. These examples span his entire choral output, including both his first and last published choral works, and include shorter, a cappella pieces as well as a major work for choir and orchestra. In each piece, place is a fundamental element, and it manifests itself in different ways in each piece. Auyuittuq demonstrates literal depiction of a soundscape, explicit textual references, referenced landscapes and power relationships. The Sea is an example of Forsyth writing within an established tradition of representing place, and serves as a point of entry to a discussion of musical representation of physical environments. Music for Mouths, Marimba, Mbira and Roto-toms is an example of a non-texted piece which must derive its elements of place from musical elements without lyrics to guide the listener. Lastly, the five movements of A Ballad of Canada each deal with a different place using different musical techniques, and depict many different conceptions of Canada as a place.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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