Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music



Major Professor

Brendan P. McConville

Committee Members

Barbara A. Murphy, David Brunell


Libby Larsen presents a rhythmic motive in Corker (1977), Slang (1994) and “Ferocious Rhythm” from String Symphony (1999) as more than a memorable melody or tune. Her rhythmic motive has multiple connections within each piece. It has value and purpose that can be explained through multiple musical parameters. Larsen varies the application of her signature motive in these pieces over a period of 20 years. Its general rhythmic structure is a common thread that links these three works together, but the overall motive is used in individualized ways in each of the pieces.

This thesis will demonstrate that the rhythmic motive (labeled the Larsen Motive in this research) is a portal into understanding Libby Larsen’s compositional approaches by exploring the Larsen Motive’s local and global impacts on Corker, Slang, and “Ferocious Rhythm.” Pitch-class analysis and musical contour theory assist in understanding the relationships that exist among the occurrences of the motive in these works. This study will show that comprehension of the Larsen Motive is a gateway to understanding her compositional voice.

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