Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music



Major Professor

Brendan McConville

Committee Members

Barbara Murphy, Donald Pederson


Beat-class analysis is a model of rhythm employed by Richard Cohn and John Roeder to analyze textural form in the compositions of Steve Reich (Roeder 2003, 275). Rhythmic attacks are regarded based on the modulus analytically assigned to a particular section (eighth note, sixteenth note, etc.). This paper will offer an in-depth analysis of beat-class modulation and transposition in Steve Reich’s The Desert Music, with a focus on the third movement. Applying this analytical technique to The Desert Music (a piece never before analyzed using beat-class analysis) proposes a fresh analytical approach to Reich’s 1984 piece. This perspective will show that the transpositional relationships found among beat-class tonics serve to generate a sense of form within The Desert Music. It will be shown through the use of beat-class analysis, that small and large formal implications within the movement are present. As a result of research and analysis, multiple transpositional relationships (tn relationships) and instances of beat-class tonics can be seen. Reich establishes multiple tn relationships between beat-class tonics and individual strands of phrasing. Each tn relationship and beat-class tonic modulation revolves around the numbers two and four, which will be shown to have significance in The Desert Music. Terminology from the research of Cohn and Roeder will be adopted and modified as necessitated by the music.

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