Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music



Major Professor

Kenneth A. Jacobs

Committee Members

Barbara A. Murphy, Donald Pederson


The relationship between music and its sources of inspiration probably has been debated for as long as people have created instrumental music. Baroque tone painting is a documented early correlation of musical theme to subject. Subsequent musical imagery and mood creation for the later programmatic music could be an outgrowth from this Baroque practice. Composers used several approaches to create each music-to-subject connection.

One compositional device was using music that had become a cliché for its most common use to evoke a reference to that setting. Another device created music that “sounds like” its meaning—musical onomatopoeia—instrumental mimicry of extra-musical sounds. Stories are suggested by the mood of the music; sometimes the only connection between music and subject is a theme that evokes the mood. Musical moods that change with the story can produce musical forms. Pictorial literal imagery may be found by study of the score with imagination. One can find correlation between the contours of notation passages and shapes in a visual representation of the subject. Pictorial correlation can be found in shapes created by paths of movement. Size and spatial relationships can be described by corresponding motifs and harmonies.

Constellation Suite is a symphony in four movements that uses all of the aforementioned pre-compositional constructs and subject relationships. The symphony's four movements derive titles and thematic material from the star groupings Andromeda, Crux, Pleiades, and Orion. Superimposing a star chart on a staff created a primary motif in each movement, and Greek legends star-related stories inspired their moods, order of themes, and shapes. However, the symphony uses traditional or almost traditional forms—a modified sonata, an extended modified rondo, a modified da capo form, and an arch form. The movements also capitalize on interrelated thematic material that creates a cyclical effect. Because of these techniques, Constellation Suite would not require any non-musical interpretations or stories to be musically valid. This thesis will demonstrate that, regardless of this symphony's tone poems' intended meanings, it joins the work of other composers who have turned stories and literal imagery into music.


Audio files can be accessed as supplemental MP3 files in TRACE. These can be played back using standard iTunes or Windows Media players.

Constellation 1, Andromeda.mp3 (4824 kB)
Andromeda, audio

Constellation 2, Crux.mp3 (3713 kB)
Crux, audio

Constellation 3, Pleiades.mp3 (3893 kB)
Pleiades, audio

Constellation 4, Orion.mp3 (5075 kB)
Orion, audio

Constellation Onomatopoeia 1, Andromeda.mp3 (313 kB)
Onomatopoeia 1, Andromeda

Constellation Onomatopoeia 2, Crux.mp3 (281 kB)
Onomatopoeia 2, Crux

Constellation Onomatopoeia 3 Orion.mp3 (184 kB)
Onomatopoeia 3, Orion

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